Results tagged ‘ Josh Donaldson ’

Yankees ‘fight’ it out for a thrilling victory

Mark Teixeira, who will call it a career at the end of the regular season and will be honored by the Yankees on the final homestand, had a retirement gift for the club before it showers him with presents. It came with a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning Monday night, and did the Yankees ever need it.

Tex’s 14th homer of the season and career No. 408 passing Duke Snider on the all-time list tied the score and gave the Yankees a chance to salvage something from a disastrous trip. His grateful teammates responded with a rally that produced four more runs, nearly all of which proved necessary when Dellin Betances had another meltdown in the bottom of the inning. Tommy Layne, who has done a solid job as a situational left-handed reliever, was magnificent in bailing out Betances and nailing down a 7-5 victory.

It was an incredible finish to a trip in which the Yankees lost eight of 11 games and have come painfully close to falling out of contention for a playoff berth. The Yankees are on life support as far as postseason play is concerned. But they sure showed a lot of fight.

With Luis Severino letting himself get baited into a retaliation battle with Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, the Yankees ended up having to use seven other pitchers to get through the last game of a very bumpy trip. Happ took two pitches to hit Chase Headley in the second, the inning after Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson had been struck by a pitch from Severino. Plate umpire Todd Tichenor issued a warning after benches had emptied with a lot of shoving but not much else.

Severino was tossed after he hit Justin Smoak to start the Toronto second. That cost the Yankees their starter, who was ejected. Once again, benches emptied into the usual scrum. When the smoke cleared, not only was Severino tossed but also manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Rob Thompson and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The Yankees were furious that Happ should have been warned after the first close pitch to Headley and thrown out after he hit him. Maybe so, but that does not excuse Severino, who did not do a smart thing by getting ejected from a must-win game for the Yankees in the second inning.

The Blue Jays took a 3-1 lead into the eighth, and thinks looked bleak for the Yankees. Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the eighth and scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury to make it a one-run game. With overworked Jose Osuna unavailable, Jays manager John Gibbons gave the save situation to Jason Grilli, who got a quick out but was victimized by Teixeira. Didi Gregorius kept the inning going with a single, and Aaron Hicks thrust the Yanks ahead with a two-run homer. They added two insurance runs that proved needed on a double by Donovan Solano, a walk to Gardner, a single by Ellsbury and a sacrifice fly by Gary Sanchez.

Betances, who had a miserable trip, walked the leadoff batter for his third straight inning and made an error on a bunt, then walked another batter to load the bases with none out. Layne was called on to face Toronto’s dangerous right-handed hitters. He walked in one run and gave up another on a single but made a sensational fielding play to get a key out at the plate and ended the game by getting Troy Tulowitzki on a fly ball.

The victory kept the Yanks’ frail playoff hopes alive. They are still five games out of the second wild card slot with six games remaining, but the last three are against the Orioles, who were not scheduled Monday.

Late-inning bullpen breakdown strikes Yanks again

The situation had reached the level that just scoring a run would be considered a moral victory for the Yankees. At this stage of the season, however, they need more than moral victories. They need out-and-out Ws, yet another late-inning breakdown Sunday on a trip that has turned into a train wreck stretched their losing streak to four games and dumped them 5 1/2 games out of the second American League wild card position.

The Yankees, who had been shut out in their previous three games, ended a 33-inning drought in the seventh Sunday at Toronto when Didi Gregorius belted his 19th home run of the season that tied the score at 1.

Jose Bautista, who had homered off Michael Pineda in the fourth inning, struck again in the eighth, another damaging inning for Dellin Betances in recent appearances. A leadoff walk to Josh Donaldson proved critical, particularly since Betances’ long stride to the plate makes him vulnerable to stolen bases. Last year’s AL Most Valuable Player wasted no time swapping second and then got to third on a risky crossing on a slow ground ball to the left of second base by Edwin Encarnacion.

That brought up Bautista, who lined a single to center that put the Jays ahead once more. Dalton Pompey ran for Bautista, and he stole second base as well with two out by taking advantage of another Betances shortcoming, throwing to bases. Betances stepped off the rubber as Pompey broke for second but instead of running directly at Pompey the reliever made one step toward the runner and tossed the ball behind him, to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had no chance to keep Pompey from stealing second.

The steal did not result in a run as. Betances struck out Troy Tulowitzki, but that play explained why manager Joe Girardi had to pull Betances from the game when he began the bottom of the ninth with another walk, this time to Melvin Upton Jr., losing him after being ahead 0-2 in the count.

At that point, Betances was protecting the Yankees’ first lead in 36 innings. Blue Jays closer Jose Osuna blew the chance for his 36th save and was done in on three two-strike singles and a sacrifice fly. Osuna was ahead in the count 1-2 to Teixeira, 0-2 to pinch hitter Billy Butler and 1-2 to Mason Williams and gave up hits to all three. Ronald Torreyes put the Yankees ahead with his fly ball to right-center.

So Betances had a chance at a winning decision in the ninth, which has been his inning since Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded, but the 6-foot-7 righthander has been shaky the past nine days with only one save against a blown save and two losses.

The walk to Upton whom Girardi thought Betances had struck out during the at-bat promoted the manager to make a move. Girardi simply could not allow Upton, a speedy runner, an easy path to second base with Betances on the mound. The skipper called on Tyler Clippard, who ended up losing the game for the second day in a row.

After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt on two tries, Kevin Pillar punched a single to right field that sent Upton to third base. More successful at bunting was Ezequiel Carrera, the 9-hole hitter, on a safety squeeze that worked with Upton crossing the plate.

Clippard worsened matters with a shovel pass in an attempt to get Upton that eluded catcher Gary Sanchez that put the trail runners on second and third. It also forced the Yanks to walk Donaldson intentionally to create a double-play situation with Encarnacion, who showed why he is leading the league in RBI with a bouncer to the right side for the game-winning single.

The 4-3 loss was as deflating as the Yankees have had all year, and they have had several just on this trip, which ends Monday night, in which they have lost eight of 10 games and may have removed themselves from serious contention. They are 5 1/2 games behind the Orioles for a playoff berth and also trail the Tigers by four games, the Mariners by three and the Astros by 2 1/2. The Yankees have even put themselves within catching distance of the Royals, who are only a half-game behind them.

Zeroes follow Yankees from Florida to Canada

At a time when losing is not an option, the Yankees suddenly cannot score. Their precarious position in the chase for an American League wild card slot only grew worse with their second straight shutout loss Thursday night on a long trip that now seems headed for nowhere.

One night after losing a 2-0 game to Tampa Bay when they left 11 runners on base, the Yankees had only seven base runners total in a 9-0 bashing by the Blue Jays. The Yankees had merely three hits in the game, and if not for the phenomenon called Gary Sanchez they would have had only one hit. Sanchez doubled and singled to jeep his torrid hitting going, but he could use company if the Yankees want to move into serious contention.

The loss made it official that the Yanks cannot win the AL East division title as they were eliminated. The Red Sox, who won again to extend their winning streak to nine games, are pretty close to wrapping up the division. Boston has a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto with eight games remaining.

So the wild card is the Yanks’ only remaining playoffs entry, and they are still at the bottom of a six-club scrum. The Blue Jays maintained their lead for the first wild card berth, and the Yankees are behind the Tigers, Orioles, Astros and Mariners for the second position. 

The Yankees’ series is a hot ticket in Toronto with 47,016 people in attendance at Rogers Centre Thursday, but there was nothing hot about Yankees’ bats. They threatened with two outs in the first inning against lefthander Francisco Liriano (8-13) on the Sanchez double and two walks, but Chase Headley struck out.

An error by Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and a single by Jacoby Ellsbury was a promising start to the third inning, but Sanchez flied out to deep center, Billy Butler struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out.

After that, the Yankees had only two base runners with neither getting beyond first base.

Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell gave up three runs, but only one was earned due to an error by Butler at first base. Mitchell also hurt himself in his six-inning stint with four walks, one of which forced in a run.

The Jays unloaded on the Yankees’ bullpen with four runs in the seventh inning against Blake Parker on a two-run double by Jose Bautista and Tulowitzki’s second two-run single of the game. The next inning, Ben Heller was burned on a double by Devon Travis and a two-run homer by Josh Donaldson.

Heller then drew a warning from plate umpire Tom Hallion after hitting Bautista with a 0-2 pitch. I have no idea what Hallion was thinking. Heller had control problems throughout the inning, and the pitch that struck Bautista was a breaking ball. It was a case of a rookie pitcher struggling and not some sort of headhunting.

It was a loss that underscored two troubling issues for the Yankees this year — their play in games started by lefthanders and within their division. The loss dropped the Yanks’ record to 21-26 against lefty starters and 30-37 against AL East opponents.

It was also the Yankees’ sixth straight loss at Rogers Centre, their longest losing streak in that building in 23 years. Earlier this month, the Yankees began their stretch run by getting their first three-game sweep of the season, over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. They have to find a way to regain that momentum.

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. 

Nova still adapting to reliever’s role

The invincibility of the Yankees’ bullpen took a hit Wednesday night due mainly because of a pitcher not used to working in relief. In his previous appearance a week ago at Yankee Stadium, Ivan Nova earned his first career save with four shutout innings against the Astros.

So Yankees manager Joe Girardi had every reason to believe that they could remain within a run’s reach of the Blue Jays when he brought in Nova to hold them down in the eighth inning after Mark Teixeira’s third home run of the season had cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2. Nova, who was beaten out in the spring for a spot in the rotation by CC Sabathia, had a miserable time of it in yielding four runs as the Jays pulled away for a 7-2 victory.

“It’s different for him.” Girardi said about Nova’s new role, “but we need him to get outs.”

Toronto scored a run before Nova got an out that inning on doubles by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. The two-base hit was big for the Jays, who have not homered in either game of the series but lashed out six doubles Wednesday night, including two by 9-hole hitter Ryan Goins, who had three hits and two RBI. After getting Edwin Encarnacion out on a ground ball, Nova gave up an RBI single to Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders’ second double of the game on a late swing against the shift.

Russell Martin knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly for the second out, but Nova hit Justin Smoak in the foot with a pitch and gave up a run-scoring single to Goins. The four runs allowed by Nova raised his ERA from 0.00 to 7.20 and that of the overall bullpen from a league-best 0.84 to 2.31.

Michael Pineda got through six innings but threw 105 innings and was uncharacteristically wild with three walks. Goins’ first double with two out in the second put Toronto ahead. After tying the score in the fifth against J.A. Happ on a double by Ronald Torreys, a single by Austin Romine and an infield out, an errant throw by Torreys, who played shortstop with Didi Gregorius getting a night off, opened the door for two Toronto runs. Smoak scored on the wild throw, and Goins came home as Donaldson grounded into a double play.

Kirby Yates pitched a shutout seventh with two strikeouts to extend the bullpen’s scoreless string to 7 1/3 innings before Nova came unglued in the eighth.

Bird likes those ducks on the pond

Take heed all you sluggers that refuse to bunt against the shift, especially leading off an inning in a tie game when getting on base is the priority.

It works!

How delightful it was to see Brian McCann push his ego aside and drop a bunt to a practically empty left side of the infield for a leadoff single in the 10th inning Tuesday night. It was a rally starter for the Yankees, and they cashed in later in the inning on a three-run home run by Greg Bird off relief pitcher Mark Lowe.

There was a playoff atmosphere at Rogers Centre where the Yankees got back to 2 1/2 games behind the firt-place Blue Jays in the American League East with the 6-4, 10-inning victory before a packed house of 47,992. Bird’s homer quieted the crowd, which woke up momentarily in the bottom of the 10th on a home run by Edwin Encarnacion.

Bird has homered in three straight games and has 10 homers and 28 RBI in 34 games. The rookie first baseman also doubled. Of his past 17 hits, 13 have been for extra bases (eight home runs and five doubles).

Put people on base in front of Bird and watch out. He is batting .370 with four doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI in 54 at-bats with runners on base compared to .164 with three doubles, two homers and two RBI in 67 at-bats with the bases empty.

It sure would be nice if the Yankees had Masahiro Tanaka available to pitch Wednesday night in the series finale, but the Japanese righthander was scratched because of a hamstring injury with Ivan Nova taking his place against Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.

Luis Severino was not the least bit overwhelmed starting an important game against a team he had faced twice previously and beat him up 11 days ago at Yankee Stadium (six earned runs, six hits, two home runs in 2 1/3 innings).

The rookie did give up the 2-0 lead the Yankees gave him in the first inning, but he held the AL’s most potent lineup to three hits. The 2-3-4 sluggers Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — each with more than 30 home runs this season — were a combined 0-for-7 with two walks.

One of the walks was to Donaldson, who scored the tying run in the sixth on a two-out single by Justin Smoak. The other run off Severino was a solo homer in the third by Kevin Pillar.

Bautista did more damage with his strong right arm than anything else. He killed two Yankees rallies with outfield assists. The right fielder gunned down Dustin Ackley at third base in the seventh on a play that was overturned by a replay challenge after the original call was that the runner was safe.

Even more dramatic was Bautista’s throw in the ninth inning that got Chris Young at the plate. The Yankees had runners on second and third with none out, but the double play foiled things and after a walk to Brett Gardner Alex Rodriguez flied out.

An insurance run or two there would have been a big help in the bottom of the ninth for Andrew Miller, who blew a save for only the second time in 36 opportunities this year when he gave up a one-out home run to Dioner Navarro. The Blue Jays went on to load the bases with two out against Miller, but he struck out Donaldson as the game went into extras.

The Yankees attacked Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada early by scoring twice in the first inning. The suddenly-hot Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by McCann that also sent Rodriguez, who had walked, to third base. Carlos Beltran got A-Rod home with a sacrifice fly. Beltran got an even bigger RBI in the eighth with a solo homer off Liam Hendriks before the ninth-inning turn of events.

Ellsbury doubled twice and is batting .440 in 25 at-bats during his six-game hitting streak. Since the start of 2013, Ellsbury has hit safely in 23 of 25 games at Rogers Centre and reached base on a hit, walk or hit by pitch in all but one. In a 12-game hitting streak at Toronto dating to June 24 last year, Ellsbury is hitting .431 with eight runs, four doubles, two triples, two home runs and eight RBI in 51 at-bats.

Blue Jays lefthander David Price, the winning pitcher Monday night over the Yankees with seven shutout innings, lowered his AL-leading ERA to 2.34. He has won 13 games since June 1 and is 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA since being traded to Toronto from Detroit. Price, who was 9-4 with the Tigers, is one of four pitchers since 1893 to win at least eight games and had winning records for two different teams in the same season. The other three all pitched for the Yankees during their careers: Hank Borowy, traded by the Yanks to the Cubs in 1945; David Cone, traded by the Blue Jays to the Yanks in 1995 and Bartolo Colon, traded by the Indians to the Expos in 2002. Colon, now with the Mets, pitched for the Yankees in 2011. Since 1980, four other pitchers won at least eight of their first 10 starts with the new team after being acquired by an in-season trade: Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 for the Cubs, Doyle Alexander in 1987 for the Tigers, Randy Johnson in 1998 for the Astros and CC Sabathia in 2008 for the Brewers. The latter three pitched for the Yankees during their careers: Alexander in 1982 and ’83, Johnson in 2005 and ’06 and Sabathia since 2009.

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..

Sun-aided hit puts shadow on Severino outing

Carlos Beltran, who played key roles in the Yankees’ victories at Toronto Friday night and Saturday, was at the center of a negative situation in the third inning Sunday. His failure to catch a fly ball to right field kept the inning alive for the Blue Jays, who went on to score three runs.

Beltran lost Troy Tulowitzki’s drive in the glaring sun at Rogers Centre with the roof open as the ball glanced off his left hip. It was originally ruled an error by official scorer Marie-Claude Pelland-Marcotte, who eventually reversed her decision and credited Tulowitzki with a double.

The scoring change had a major effect on Luis Severino’s pitching line. After the Beltran play, which occurred with two out, Severino gave up a single to Josh Donaldson that scored the game’s first run and a long home run to center field by Jose Bautista (No. 28) for two more runs. Donaldson’s hit was the only one in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position for the Blue Jays in the series.

Had Pelland-Marcotte not reversed her ruling, all the runs against Severino’s record would have been unearned. Instead, they were earned and in my opinion deservedly so.

Such a play is an example of an age-old argument about who is responsible for a hitter reaching base in that circumstance. Talk about creating a team error for such situations has been going on since at least the 1960s, but Major League Baseball has always been reluctant to make any change. And for good reason, I say. Official scoring rules dictate that responsibility for base movement falls on an individual pitcher or fielder. That is an essential part of scoring a baseball game. A team error would be a copout for an indecisive scorer.

Fact is, it would be unfair to charge Beltran with an error when the elements made it impossible to see the ball. Such plays have been called hits regularly. The argument that Severino should not be penalized because he gave up a routine fly ball does not wash because the sun made it uncatchable. He still needs to get a third out and compounded the situation by giving up run-scoring hits to the next two batters. Those runs looked pretty earned to me. (One scoring rule that really irks me is when a pitcher is not charged with an earned run because of an error when it was he who made the error.)

Severino certainly recovered from that damaging inning and gave up only one hit and two walks with six of his nine strikeouts from the fourth through the sixth. The Yankees also got quality relief work by Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren but did not overcome what happened in the third inning.

The final was 3-1 Toronto with the Yankees’ only run coming on a solo home run in the sixth by Jacoby Ellsbury, who showed signs of coming out of a prolonged slump with a 5-for-14 (.357) series with a triple, a home run and two RBI.

So for all the strong work Severino has shown in his three starts he remains winless (0-2) despite a 3.18 ERA. On the other hand, Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison has a 12-2 record despite a 5.06 ERA. Hutchison has benefit from the largest run support of any starter in the American League (more than seven runs per game), although he did not have a bunch of runs to work with Sunday. The righthander limited the Yankees to two hits other than the Ellsbury homer and one walk with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

Winning two of the three games in Toronto took some of the sting out of being swept at home last weekend by the Blue Jays for the Yankees, who come home back in first place in the AL Ease by a half-game over the Blue Jays. These teams will face each other seven more times in September, so nothing definitive would have been settled this weekend anyway.

Yet even in losing four of the six games to the Jays over the past two weekends the Yankees displayed effective pitching with a 2.67 ERA over 54 innings against the majors’ most productive offense, an extremely positive development.

Fans contribute to Yankees’ pain

The Yankees are having a tough enough time these days without the fans making it harder for them. After suffering their second straight shutout loss Sunday to complete a three-game sweep by the surging Blue Jays, the Yankees watched their first-place hold in the American League East dwindle to 1 1/2 games to Toronto, which remains three games behind in the loss column.

Make no mistake, however. The race in the division has tightened up to a degree that the Yankees could not have expected 12 days ago when they had a seven-game lead and were eight games up on the Jays, then in third place. The additions of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price before the non-waiver trade deadline last month were serious upgrades for Toronto, which the Yanks witnessed first hand during this lost weekend.

And in Sunday’s 2-0 setback they took their lumps literally as well as figuratively. In the first inning after Josh Donaldson hit a long home run to left field off Masahiro Tanaka, a fan threw the ball back onto the field and struck left fielder Brett Gardner on the right side of his head.

“Not at all,” Gardner said when asked if he was upset. “Don’t care. I was just lucky the guy who threw it wasn’t as close as the second row.”

This tradition of tossing back onto the field opponents’ home runs began at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the 1980s and has been part of the Yankee Stadium experience as well for some time. I must admit that it never made any sense to me. If I were to catch a home run ball in the stands, I would not throw it back onto the field. I would keep it and bring it home to my kids. Why honor a tradition that began with a franchise that has not won a World Series for more than 100 years?

Gardner was kind not to make a big deal out of it. In fact, he even said the fans were correct in getting on him because neither he nor teammate Jacoby Ellsbury did very much at the top of the order in this series. They were a combined 2-for-23 (both hits were singles by Gardner) with two walks and no runs scored in the series.

Less accepting of fans’ behavior was first baseman Mark Teixeira, who was still annoyed after the game that a fan in the box seats interfered with him as he tried to catch a foul ball by Blue Jays designated hitter Chris Colabello in the ninth inning. Colabello eventually struck out, but Tex was still sore about the situation.

“Tell the fans they can insult but not assault,” he said. “I know we just lost three games, and we’re sorry about that. But, please, no assaults, just insults.”

It was that kind of series for the Yankees, who scored only one run in the three games, none in the last two and are in a scoreless streak that has reached 26 innings, their longest in 24 years. The last time the Yankees went this long without scoring was back in the Stump Merrill days of May 15-18, 1991, a stretch of 32 blank innings.

The Yankees were shut out in consecutive games for the first time since May 12-13, 1999 against the Angels and had played 2,665 games between the consecutive shutout streaks, the longest stretch of not being shut out in back-to–back games in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Yankees began the homestand last Tuesday night with a 13-3 victory over the Red Sox. They scored only four runs in their next 45 innings.

“Just a bump in the road,” Teixeira said.

It was actually more like an enormous pothole. The Yankees wasted several strong pitching performances, including Tanaka’s six-inning stint Sunday in which he allowed three hits and no walks with five strikeouts. Unfortunately, two of the hits were home runs. Joining Donaldson was Jose Bautista with a solo blast in the fourth. The Jays out-homered the Yanks in the series, 6-1.

“It is never a good thing to get swept at home by the team that is chasing you,” Gardner said. “We’ll try to have a short-term memory, regroup on the off-day [Monday] and get back to our game in Cleveland. There are still another six or seven weeks left in the season.”

The Yankees found out over the weekend the rest of the season will be more challenging than they may have realized not that long ago.

Yankees have fallen into a 2-1 rut

So where was that all that high-powered offense that was expected from the American League’s two most prolific run scoring teams Friday night? The Yankees and the Blue Jays mustered only one run each as the game was pushed into extra innings.

Credit the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and the Jays’ R.A. Dickey with keeping the combustible lineups under control. Solo home runs by Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the first inning and the Yanks’ Mark Teixeira in the second was all the scoring accomplished in regulation.

It was another solo home run — by Jose Bautista with one out in the 10th off Brandon Pinder — that was the difference in the third consecutive 2-1 game played by the Yankees and the second loss. The other setback was Wednesday night to the Red Sox and Steven Wright, like Dickey a knuckleball pitcher. That flutterball has stymied the Yankees’ offense.

Eovaldi kept his six-game winning streak intact but could not add to it. Same with Dickey, who had won his three previous starts. Since his last loss June 16, Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.87 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in lowering his season ERA from 5.12 to 4.15. In 10 starts this season at Yankee Stadium, the righthander is 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 58 innings. He gave the Yankees 6 1/3 quality innings Friday night in allowing five hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

Dickey remains the one former Cy Young Award winner the Yankees have had trouble with this year, and they will face another one Saturday in lefthander David Price, who was recently obtained in a trade from the Tigers. Dickey pitched seven innings and scattered six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

The Yankees are 6-2 this year in games started by former Cy Young Award winners, who have a combined ERA of 5.48 in those games. Dickey started both of those games the Yankees lost and posted a 1.27 ERA in those starts over 21 1/3 innings.

The loss sliced the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 3 1/2 games over the Blue Jays, who are nonetheless five games back in the loss column. That is the nail in the coffin in pennant races because a loss cannot be made up so long as the team you are trailing keeps winning.

Still, the Yankees wasted a good pitching effort and used their back end of the bullpen combo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in a game they failed to win. It was not the way they wanted to start what may be a critical weekend.