Blue Jays rediscover long ball to upend Yankees
Yankees pitchers did an excellent job in the first two games of the series at Toronto this week in keeping the powerful Blue Jays hitters in the yard. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. And the rubber game Thursday night was plenty bad for the Yanks.
In the longest outing by a Yankees starter this year (6 2/3 innings), Nathan Eovaldi was rolling along for five innings before the Blue Jays finally found a way to clear the fence. A hanging splitter on a 1-0 count was crushed by Josh Donaldson, last year’s American League Most Valuable Player, for a 440-foot bomb into the center field restaurant seats at Rogers Centre that turned a 2-0 Yankees lead into a 3-2 deficit.
It only got worse an inning later when Troy Tulowitzki slammed a first-pitch slider to left for a solo homer. Eovaldi had worked out of trouble in the fourth inning by getting Tulowitzki on an infield pop and striking out Michael Saunders to strand runners on second and third, but the righthander’s luck ran out in the fifth. With two out, Kevin Pillar doubled over third base, sending Russell Martin, who had walked, to third base. First base was open, but Donaldson has the luxury of having fellow slugger Jose Bautista batting behind him. In a case of pick your poison, Donaldson supplied the lethal dose this time.
Now working with a lead, Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman took control as he retired the last 11 batters he faced. He kept the ball down in the zone so well that only four of the 24 outs Stroman recorded were on balls in the air. Roberto Osuna finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save in making it 14 straight outs by the Yankees from the fifth inning to the end of the game.
The Yankees’ offense was pretty anemic. They were retired in order in six of the nine innings and managed only three hits, all singles. Their two-run rally in the fourth was aided by Stroman, who struck slumping Alex Rodriguez with a pitch and yielded singles to Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann that loaded the bases with one out. Carlos Beltran avoided being doubled up in beating a play at first base to drive in one run. Stroman wild-pitched in the second one. Considering that the Yankees were 3-for-22 (.136) with runners in scoring position in the series, they were lucky to come away with at least one victory.
Stroman improved his career record against the Yankees to 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA. Eovaldi had a seven-game road winning streak dating to last season stopped. So nearing the end of the second week of the season, the Yankees at 4-4 and the Blue Jays at 5-5 are playing .500 ball, but for now just not against each other.