Price is right for Blue Jays

If the Yankees ever get back into first place in the American League East, it will have to be after they leave Toronto. The Blue Jays ensured they will hold the top spot in the division over the duration of the series at Rogers Centre with a 4-2 victory Monday night.

Toronto boosted its division lead to 3 1/2 games (3 in the loss column), which means that even if the Yankees were to win Tuesday and Wednesday nights they would still be in second place upon leaving Canada.

The Yankees ran into David Price, every bit the ace Matt Harvey is to the Mets and moreso. Unlike Harvey, whom the Mets pulled after five innings Sunday night and paid for it when the Yankees pummeled his successors, Price went seven innings and shut out the Bombers on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

There was a time in the eighth inning when it resembled what happened to the Mets in the sixth inning Sunday night at Citi Field as the first three Yankees batters reached base against the shaky Toronto bullpen and put a run across. The turning point may have been a called third strike on Brett Gardner on a pitch at the top of the letters that was borderline to say the least.

Brett Cecil followed that with strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann, which sent the Yankees packing. They got a two-out home run from Greg Bird in the ninth inning off closer Roberto Osuna (17th save) but nothing more in dropping the first game of the series.

In essence, the game came apart for the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning when the Blue Jays scored three times off Adam Warren, who recovered nicely but only after the horses had left the barn. Warren started the game with a single, a hit batter and another single for one run, a wild pitch and an infield out for a second run and a double by Justin Smoak for a third run.

That was more than sufficient support for Price, who had merely one challenging inning among his seven. An errant throw by second baseman Cliff Pennington, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to Gardner loaded the bases with one out before Price recovered to strike out Rodriguez and retire McCann on a fly ball to center field.

Those were the first two of 14 consecutive outs by Price, who improved his American League Cy Young Award resume with a 17-5 record, including 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 69 1/3 innings since joining the Blue Jays in a trade from the Tigers. That is the definition of an ace, which is something the Mets and Harvey have to learn.

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