Yanks closing in on Jays, but Tanaka is hurt

Sunday night’s Subway Series finale became an even bigger game for the Yankees after the Blue Jays lost again to the Red Sox in the afternoon. That trimmed Toronto’s lead over the Yanks in the American League East to three games.

So with a victory Sunday night over the Mets and Matt Harvey the Yankees would get to 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays heading into a true showdown at Toronto, a three-game series that begins Monday night that gives the Bombers a chance at returning to the top of the division.

Yet just as things were looking up for the Yankees, they sustained a severe blow before Sunday night’s game with the news that Masahiro Tanaka will have to be scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday night at Rogers Centre because of a Grade 1 sprain of his right hamstring.

Inter-league play was the culprit. Tanaka sustained the injury while running out a ground ball in the second inning of Friday night’s loss to the Mets, although he batted again in the fifth and remained in the game through six innings. The designated hitter rule is not in effect in National League parks, so Tanaka had to bat in the game.

A similar situation occurred to the Yankees in 2008 when pitcher Chien-Ming Wang suffered a serious foot injury while running the bases in an inter-league game at Houston, then an NL city.

The pitching match-ups for the Yankees-Blue Jays series have been set: Adam Warren (6-6, 3.33 ERA) vs. David Price (16-5, 2.42 ERA) Monday night, Luis Severino (4-3, 3.12 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.14 ERA) Tuesday night and Ivan Nova (6-8, 5.11 ERA) in place of Tanaka (12-7, 3.38 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (2-0, 3.00 ERA) Wednesday night.

But first things first. The Yankees need to get past the Mets. CC Sabathia, who has pitched well in two starts since coming off the disabled list and wearing a strong brace on his arthritic right knee, must dig down deep for a pennant-race performance. Sabathia allowed only one earned run over 11 1/3 innings (0.79 ERA) in his past two starts, both no-decisions. The lefthander is winless in nine starts since July 8 but is 0-1 with a 2.76 ERA over his past six starts.

Starting pitching has been a strength for the Yankees at Citi Field. With Saturday’s shutout over the Mets, the Yankees have pitched shutouts in three of their last four games at Citi Field (also May 14 and 15, 2014). They were the first visiting team to throw back-to-back shutouts at Citi Field and the first to blank the Mets at their home field in consecutive games since the Braves July 2 and 3, 1999 at Shea Stadium.

Yankees starters have a 0.81 ERA in their past seven starts at Citi Field covering 44 2/3 innings dating to June 24, 2012 and gave up two runs or fewer in each of those games. Since Citi Field opened in 2009, Yankees starters have allowed one run or fewer in 11 of 18 starts and two runs or fewer in 15 of 18 starts. The rotation’s career ERA at Citi Field is 2.04 in 110 1/3 innings.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Carlos Beltran’s three-run home run Saturday marked his first career game-winning RBI against the Mets, in his 25th career game against his former team. He is the only active player who has game-winning RBI against all 30 major league clubs.

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