The Yankees needed a win in the worst way possible to have any realistic chance of catching the Blue Jays. After losing the opener of a three-game series 4-2 to David Price, what they got was another clutch performance from 22-year old first baseman Greg Bird. Bird was indeed the word in a big 6-4 Yankee 10 inning win over the Jays at a loud Rogers Centre. His three-run home run off Toronto reliever Mark Lowe made a winner of closer Andrew Miller after he blew just his second save.
With the game knotted at two, Carlos Beltran stayed red hot going yard off Liam Hendricks to put the Yankees in front in the eighth inning. But the Jays wouldn’t go quietly. They loaded the bases against set up man Dellin Betances before he got Edwin Encarnacion to chase a low breaking ball out of the strike zone. Betances recovered from a bout of wildness walking two straight Jays to load the bases. It’s been a bit tougher for him this month with his command not as sharp. But he battled through relying on two 98 MPH heaters to set up the big strikeout of Encarnacion.
In the ninth, the Yanks had a great opportunity to pad their lead. After Chris Young walked, a Didi Gregorius ground rule double put runners in at second and third with nobody out. But a medium fly out by Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t enough to score Young, who was nailed at the plate thanks to a great throw by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista for a 9-9-2 double play. Following a Brett Gardner walk to put runners on the corners, Alex Rodriguez flied out to end the threat. That would nearly prove fatal.
One thing about these Jays. They go down swinging. With virtually an entire lineup possessing enough power to go deep, you can’t blind for a second. After Miller got Justin Smoak swinging, he served up a meatball to Dioner Navarro, who belted his fifth dinger into the left field seats. The Jays nearly ended it loading the bases. That included a puzzling move by Yankee skipper Joe Girardi who elected to intentionally walk Matt Hague. Thinking Miller would face lefty hitting Ben Revere, Girardi didn’t anticipate that Jays manager John Gibbons would send up Russell Martin to pinch hit. Miller pitched him carefully missing high and away which allowed AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson to come up with the bases packed and two outs. With the crowd going nuts, Miller bounced back getting Donaldson chasing sending the game to extra innings.
In the 10th, Brian McCann bunted against the shift reaching base on an errant throw. Amazingly, it was scored a hit. In a better move Girardi sent in Rico Noel to pinch run for McCann. He can fly. With the threat of a steal, the Yankees hit and run with Slade Heathcott, whose swing was interrupted by Navarro’s glove resulting in catchers interference. That put two runners on with no out setting the stage for Bird. After working the count back to 2-2, he drove Lowe’s low fastball out to right for a game-winning three-run home run. It was his 10th of the season. He’s hit homers in three straight and has five in the last seven with 11 RBI’s.
With no one else to go to, Girardi sent Miller back out to get the final three outs. It wasn’t without a loud thud with Encarnacion clocking his 35th long ball slicing the deficit to 6-4 with one away. But Miller got the next two batters to finally give the Yanks a well earned victory which pulled them within two and a half games. The rubber match is tomorrow with Ivan Nova facing Marcus Stroman. We’ll see if Nova can get himself righted subbing for Masahiro Tanaka.
Aside from Bird continuing to impress, Luis Severino gave the Yanks six solid frames of two-run ball with three walks and three K’s. A better outing than last time when the Jays lit him up for six earned and two homers in two-plus. He did allow a solo shot to Kevin Pillar and a game-tying Smoak RBI single. But the results were positive for the 21-year old righty.
One question for Girardi is whether Miller will be available. He threw 42 pitches and 26 for strikes. Maybe if it’s a save situation, Betances gets the chance instead. He threw 20 pitches (10 strikes), That’s assuming Nova can actually match Stroman and the Yankee offense can score enough runs. We’ll see.