While beating the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 doesn’t erase the lead the New York Yankees need to chase down in order to make the playoffs, it does an excellent job of taking care of a rival that’s right behind them in the AL East, also chasing after that Wild Card spot.
After dropping 2-of-3 in Detroit, the Yankees can’t afford to lose any more series. They’re three games behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card spot, with the Seattle Mariners in the way, and are still seven games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, a gap they’re probably not going to be able to close in the month they have remaining. Taking the series in Toronto and carrying that momentum into September is vital if the Yankees don’t want to miss out on the postseason for another year.
Things started clicking for the Yankees very late in this game, maybe a metaphor for the season in general. Jose Bautista hit a huge home run in the fourth inning (421 feet) to put the Blue Jays on top, but in the 7th Mark Buehrle lost control of a game he did very well in. A double from Brett Gardner led to Brian McCann scoring, but then an awful throw to third allowed Carlos Beltran to score as well and create panic within the Blue Jays defense. Another throwing error allowed Gardner to get a run himself, and the inning was capped off by the red hot Jacboy Ellsbury with his 14th home run of the season, making it a two-run shot (Ichiro Suzuki scored), giving the Yankees a 5-1 lead.
The Blue Jays came back through a Kevin Pillar double and a Melky Cabrera sacrifice fly, but another home run, this time from Chase Headley, sealed the deal as the Yankees went on to win the first game of the weekend series. David Robertson came on to pick up his 35th save of the season, while Chris Capuano, giving up eight hits in 6.1 innings while allowed two runs and striking out four batters came up with the win, improving to 3-2 this season with a 4.24 ERA. For Buehrle, it was the ninth loss this season.
Ellsbury (2-for-5, 2 RBIs) remains the hottest player in the lineup this week. Since getting the leadoff spot again, he his hitting a .423 with four home runs and nine RBIs (since August 23). His performance as a leadoff hitter compared to when batting second or third is incredible, with his batting average being 36 points higher when he’s the first to be at the plate for the Yankees. In terms of hitting and generating for others, it’s the second best season of his career, which has been filled with too many season of not staying healthy enough.
Buehrle continues his awful run against the Yankees, making 16 straight starts against them since his only win (2004). For Bautista, hitting his 27th home run of the season, it was the third straight game with a home run, the second longest streak of his career. The Blue Jays are at 67-67, 10.5 games behind the Orioles and three behind the Yankees. This series is just as crucial for them, hoping to not let a great first half of the season slip away from their fingers, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993.