Yankees waste solid effort from Sabathia

It is tough to lose a two-hitter, but that is what happened to CC Sabathia Thursday. The lefthander gave up only two singles through seven innings, which marked the eighth consecutive game in which the Yankees’ starting pitcher lasted six or more innings.

That was the good part. The bad part is that Blue Jays lefthander J.A. Happ was just as stingy in limiting the Yankees to one run in seven innings. A home run with two out in the first inning by Starlin Castro accounted for the Yankees’ scoring in a 3-1 loss that allowed Toronto to jump ahead of them in the American League East standings.

The Yankees stayed out of last place in the division but fell two games under .500 in dropping two of the three games in the abbreviated home stand against a club that has had more than it share of turmoil lately. Losing the series stunted much of the momentum derived from a 5-2 trip to Phoenix and Oakland. The Yankees will spend the next 10 days on the road again with stops in St. Petersburg, Fla. (three games), Toronto (three), Detroit (one), and Baltimore (three). Only the rainout makeup game against the Tigers will be outside the AL East, so there will be plenty of chances for the Yanks to gain ground in the standings.

It hurt to waste so strong an effort by Sabathia, whose record fell to 3-3 butt whose ERA shrunk to 2.83. Neither of the two runs off Sabathia, who struck out seven batters, walked one and hit one, was earned because of an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius, whose defense has been inconsistent (eight errors in 42 games).

Gregorius booted a hard grounder by Devon Travis with one out. Sabathia retired Darwin Barney on a fly to center but loaded the bases by yielding a single to Jose Bautista and walking Josh Donaldson. Edwin Encarnacion lashed a single to left to score the two runs that gave the Jays the lead for what turned out to be for good.

Sabathia kept the Yankees in the game after that with four hitless innings, but the Yankees could not muster much of an offense against Happ and two relievers. Chase Headley and Gregorius singled with one out in the fifth before Austin Romine grounded into a double play. In the eighth against righthander Gavin Floyd, Jacoby Ellsbury batted for Romine and led off with a single. He reached second on an infield out but was stranded as Aaron Hicks flied out and Alex Rodriguez struck out.

Rodriguez was back from his two-game, injury-rehabilitation assignment at Double A Trenton and in the lineup as the designated hitter for the first time since he went on the 15-day disabled list May 4. A-Rod was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Carlos Beltran, who had been the Yankees’ hottest hitter as a frequent DH in Rodriguez’s absence, was back in right field and had a brutal day at the plate (0-for-4, all strikeouts). He is now hitless in his past nine at-bats. Romine played first base in place of Mark Teixeira, who had an injection in his ailing neck and will be out of the lineup for several days. Relief pitcher Chasen Shreve was placed on the DL because of a sprained left shoulder.

The Blue Jays scored an insurance run in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman, who was not in a save situation and gave up three singles.

Thursday marked Sabathia’s 10th career start of seven or more innings pitched and two hits or fewer without allowing an earned run and his first since April 5, 2011 against the Twins (seven innings, two hits). With his seven strikeouts, Sabathia raised his career total to 2,610, surpassing Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (2,607) and tying Chuck Finley (2,610) for 23rd place on the all-time list.

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