NEW YORK -- Neil Walker and some teammates pulled into Yankee Stadium at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, only to turn right back around for home when New York announced a six-hour postponement.
The Yankees needed a jolt to get through the long, soggy day. Aaron Judge provided the first with his return to the lineup, and Walker helped finish the job.
Walker hit a three-run homer, Zach Britton started a game-ending double play on New York's third try in the ninth inning and the Yankees kept the Boston Red Sox from a bubbly celebration in the Bronx for at least another night with a 3-2 victory.
Batting from the left side, Walker golfed a no-doubter in the seventh inning off Ryan Brasier for the Yankees' third hit of the game and a 3-1 lead. Walker dropped his bat, admired the shot for a moment and then pointed into the Yankees dugout as he jogged to first base.
"We didn't have many hits tonight," Walker said. "When you get a big hit like that, it can be uplifting. I was just happy to put a good swing on it."
Judge returned to New York's lineup for the first time since breaking his right wrist July 26, while AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts got a day off for Boston after injuring his left side Sunday.
Judge hit a pop fly to the warning track but finished 0 for 4. He looked sharp in his at-bats, though, and gave the struggling Yankees an emotional lift amid a dreary stretch of the season -- New York had dropped 10 of 17.
"He was running around like a Little Leaguer in here today ready to play," Walker said. "He was anxious as I've seen him all year."
New York increased its lead to 2 1/2 games over Oakland for the top AL wild card.
Boston is trying to clinch the AL East at Yankee Stadium for the second time in three years. The Red Sox lead the Yankees by 10 1/2 games and have a magic number of four over the Astros to lock up baseball's best record.
"We'll try again tomorrow and see what happens," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Originally scheduled for 1:05 p.m., the start was pushed back earlier in the morning because heavy rain was in the forecast.
The teams combined for eight hits, and the game got a sloppy finish.
Britton had two on in the ninth after Brock Holt walked and Christian Vazquez reached when second baseman Gleyber Torres was unable to handle a wide feed from third on the first potential game-ending double play. Britton then scooped a short grounder by Sam Travis and threw it into center field with runners at first and third, allowing Holt to score. Ian Kinsler followed with an almost identical ball back to Britton, and the left-hander hit the target this time for the final two outs to finish his sixth save.
"A little frustration," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But also knowing that the way Zach was throwing the ball, he was going to get another opportunity at it."
Boston reliever Brandon Workman (6-1) walked two in the seventh before Walker took Brasier deep.
"You don't want to put traffic (on the bases)," Cora said. "Because they're one swing away from changing the game, and they did."
The Red Sox bullpen wasted six scoreless innings of two-hit ball from hard-throwing starter Nathan Eovaldi.
Happ was nearly as good in muffling the Red Sox once again, allowing an unearned run over six innings. He entered as one of only four pitchers since 1923 to allow two or fewer earned runs over 10 straight starts against Boston -- the others were Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson and Bruce Howard. Happ has a 1.76 ERA in his past 11 starts against the Red Sox.
Boston went ahead 1-0 with an unearned run in the third that followed a balk by Happ and a passed ball by Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez was booed after grounding out weakly to the pitcher in the fifth inning. He went 0 for 2 with a walk to drop his batting average to .187.
Boone slotted Judge to bat second and play right field, but only because the late start gave him and the front office a few extra hours to evaluate the reigning AL Rookie of the Year.
Judge batted in simulated games Monday and Tuesday, then lobbied hard for the Yankees to start him. They relented after he hit a homer off minor leaguer Adonis Rosa on Tuesday morning.
"I just voiced my opinion -- a lot," Judge said with a grin. "And they kind of got tired of me telling them I would be playing, so they finally said, `Let's just put him in there and see what happens."
A good portion of the Yankee Stadium crowd stood for Judge's first at-bat. Fans gasped when he hit a hard line drive into right field, then exhaled and clapped after Martinez easily caught it. The lineout was measured at 112 mph.
"I felt like I never left," Judge said. "Everything felt good."
Judge hit into an inning-ending double play in the third, drove a fly out to the warning track in the right field corner in the sixth and struck out in the eighth.
"He looked like he hadn't missed a beat from the at-bat quality," Boone said.
Betts, meanwhile, would have played if not for the damp conditions. Cora wrote Betts in as his center fielder at 9 a.m. but scratched him when it became clear the weather would be an issue.
Red Sox: Matt Barnes (hip inflammation) is set to throw a bullpen Wednesday and be re-evaluated after that. ... Eduardo Nunez started at DH and said he is fully healed after experiencing right knee soreness late last week.
Yankees: Aroldis Chapman will likely be activated Wednesday or Thursday. The closer has been out since Aug. 21 with left knee tendinitis. ... Top prospect Justus Sheffield was activated by the Yankees and available in the bullpen.
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