Toronto takes Round 1 by a knockout
The Blue Jays applied some pressure on the Yankees with a five-homer, 11-5 victory Friday night in the opener of the four-game showdown series at Yankee Stadium. By increasing their lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games, Toronto put the Yanks in a position of having to win the final three games to knock the Jays out of first place before leaving town after Sunday’s game.
The Blue Jays swept the Yankees in a three-game series at the Stadium in early August and have won five straight games, 10 of their past 15 and 14 of their past 22 games in the Bronx. Toronto, which has an 80-60 overall record, is 35-14 since the All-Star break and 27-9 since the beginning of August. The Jays trailed the Yankees by eight games in the standings July 28 and have made up 10 1/2 games since then.
Luis Severino had his first rough outing for the Yankees. In his first six starts, the rookie righthander did not allow more than three runs in any of them and only a total of two runs in his past three starts covering 18 1/3 innings.
It was a much different story this time as the Blue Jays banged Severino around for five runs and five hits, including four for extra bases, in the first inning. The Yankees were down, 5-0, before about half the people in the Friday night crowd of 40,220 had taken their seats or David Price had taken the mound.
Severino was in trouble immediately as Ben Revere led off with a double, and Josh Donaldson, expanding his AL Most Valuable Player credentials, followed with a home run (No. 38) into the left field bleachers. Severino struck out Jose Bautista but then gave up three straight hits — a double to right-center by Edwin Encarnacio, an RBI single to left by Troy Tulowitzki and a two-run homer to right by Justin Smoak.
Severino seemed to have settled down when he struck out Donaldson and Bautista to strand Revere at second base, but in the third he walked two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed an RBI single to Russell Martin that prompted manager Joe Girardi to go to his bullpen.
Martin did even more damage in his next two at-bats with a couple of home runs, a solo shot leading off the fifth against Andrew Bailey and a two-run blast in the seventh off Chasen Shreve. Encarnacion also went deep with two out in the fourth off Chris Martin, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to the game.
The five home runs were emblematic of the bludgeoning Toronto bats have done to AL pitching this year with 197 homers in 140 games.
The large lead proved beneficial to Price, who was not overwhelming and lasted only five innings. The lefthander gave up two hits, six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in improving his overall record to 15-5 with a 2.46 ERA. Price is 6-1 with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts totaling 55 1/3 innings since being traded to the Blue Jays from the Tigers.
Four of the Yankees’ runs were driven in by Didi Gregorius with a two-out single off Price in the third inning and a three-run homer off LaTroy Hawkins in the sixth that cut the margin to 9-5 and had Yankees fans cheering for a change. Martin’s second homer and the fact that the Yankees made their last nine outs in succession spoiled any chance for a comeback..