With Ellsbury out, Yanks’ attack toothless

In the bottom of the first inning Saturday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Michael Pineda gave up a two-run home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch. As former sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say, “You could have turned your set off right there.”

The way the game began is the way it ended, 2-0 for the Blue Jays, who went back above .500 (68-67), and a major downer for the Yankees, who managed merely one hit and one threat over the course of nine innings and need a victory in Sunday’s finale for a winning trip.

Probably not coincidental was that the Yankees’ lineup was minus Jacoby Ellsbury, their hottest hitter. The center fielder sprained his left ankle Friday night while sliding home into an out in the ninth inning. His ankle apparently slammed into a shinguard of catcher Dioner Navarro. Ellsbury played the field in the bottom of the ninth but was too sore to play Saturday. Whether he can return to the lineup Sunday remains to be seen.

Ellsbury has struggled on the road much of the season but not during this trip through Kansas City, Detroit and Toronto. He is batting .440 with six runs, one triple, four home runs, nine RBI and two stolen bases in 25 at-bats. Over his past 11 games and 44 at-bats, Ellsbury is batting .455 with eight runs, one double, one triple, four homers,11RBI and six stolen bases.

Yet as several players pointed out to reporters in the clubhouse afterwards, the loss of one player should not shut down a whole team. Drew Hutchison, who had lost three of his four stars with a 7.08 ERA this year against the Yankees entering the game, did not allow a base runner until two out in the fourth inning when he hit Carlos Beltran with a pitch. Mark Teixeira doubled to right-center, which turned out to be the Yankees’ only hit. Hutchison loaded the bags when he struck Brian McCann with a pitch, but Martin Prado flied out to center.

And that was that. The Yankees had only two base runners after that, both on walks. It was a tough fate for Pineda, who gave the Yankees another fine outing. The righthander pitched two batters into the seventh inning and gave up seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. In four starts since missing 86 games because of a right shoulder injury, Pineda is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA, one walk and 15 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.

Surrendering a home run to Bautista is no great crime. The Jays right fielder has 28 of them this year and has homered in each of his past four games. It was also his 23rd career home run against the Yankees. Pineda got in trouble in the seventh after yielding a single to Edwin Encarnacion and a double to Navarro. But Shawn Kelley came to the rescue by striking out Danny Valencia and getting Kevin Pillar on a grounder and Jose Reyes on a fly ball. David Huff also supplied a shutout inning of relief, but the offense was shut out for nine.

This important trip has had its highs and lows, among them the setback in his desire to pitch again this season for Masahiro Tanaka. He pitched a simulated game Thursday in Detroit and was sent back to New York after reporting general arm soreness, which is not unusual in recovery situations such as his. The one positive element is that the soreness was not related to his elbow that was treated for a partial ligament tear. Just the same, odds of his pitching at all for the Yanks this season were greatly reduced.

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