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Blue Jays ride three-run first inning to important victory, beat Yankees 4-2

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Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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The Blue Jays won the first game of their huge series with the Yankees this evening on the back of a big first inning and a dominant David Price. The Jays now sit first place in the AL East with a lead of 3.5 games, guaranteeing they leave this week's series still in the top spot.

The game almost started with a horrible incident as lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury launched a line drive right at David Price's head. Luckily the lefty was able to snag the drive off of pure instinct and was calm enough to have a laugh about it afterwards.

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The rest of the half inning rolled along pretty smoothly, with only an Alex Rodriguez single being of note. Mainly because Alex Rodriguez hit it, and he's the worst. The bottom of the first featured it's own fair share of excitement as the first two hitters in Ben Revere and Josh Donaldson both reached thanks to a single and HBP respectively. Jose Bautista proceeded to single home Revere. With Edwin Encarnacion at the dish, the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. That would be key, as a soft EE grounder to Didi Gregorius brought in Donaldson from third to make it 2-0 with just one out recorded. Could you imagine if Derek Jeter still played shortstop for New York? He would have run home and got the man at home before turning two at first base. Derek Jeter is so great... It got even worse for Yankees starter Adam Warren when Justin Smoak stepped up to the plate and smashed a double to the right field wall scoring Encarnacion. Next up, Russell Martin grounded out to second base although Smoak did move to third on the play. Ryan Goins walked on four pitches and Warren was already crawling north of 30 pitches, which is a big deal for a pitcher still not fully stretched out for starter's usage. Kevin Pillar struck out...guess not everything is perfect in the world.

Yeah, things were looking pretty good for the Jays:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Warren on about 85-P limit throws 35 in 1st, down 3-0. So all RPs Girardi doesn&#39;t trust will be facing MLB&#39;s best O where it mashes at home</p>&mdash; Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) <a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/646105901556830208">September 21, 2015</a></blockquote>

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As most Yankees fans were beginning to turn their attention to the New York Rangers preseason game, David Price sat down the side in order on nine pitches in the second. Donaldson reached again in the bottom half as he beat out a ground ball to third baseman Chase Headley, proceeding to second base on the very high throw which was scored as a single and an error. Maybe it's a good thing that the Jays acquired Donaldson instead of Headley this offseason as Chase has not been the best fielder this year. All for naught though, as Bautista gave Headley another chance to record an out, which he did this time.

Things got hairy in the top of the third as a Cliff Pennington error, Ellsbury single, and Brett Gardner walk loaded the bases for Alex Rodriguez with one out. After a nine-pitch at bat, Rodriguez struck out, much to the delight of the Rogers Centre faithful. Next up was Brian McCann who got himself in a quick 0-2 hole after a couple of good fastballs. Price got out of the huge jam with a fly ball to Pillar in center for the third out.

Warren hit his pitch limit in the fourth inning after just one batter and was taken out of the game. His night consisted of 82 pitches, which got him through 3.1 innings and saw him yield three runs on five hits while recording five strikeouts. Despite the Yankees having to go to the 'pen very early in the game, things moved along without much action other than Joe Girardi constantly going to the mound to change relievers.

In the Jays half of the sixth, things got sweaty for New York as Chasen Shreve came into the game. Shreve, a lefty, had been outstanding this season until the calendar turned to September. The demands of the major league season look to have finally caught up to Shreve as he's been a dumpster fire in his last handful of appearances. Two of those appearances came against Toronto last weekend, with one of them being the horror show in the 11th inning on Saturday that lost the Yankees the game. Anyway, Shreve allowed a single to Ryan Goins, a rare walk to Kevin Pillar, a hard-fought walk to Matt Hague before recording the single out of the game he was brought in to get. It came when Ben Revere got a hold of a first pitch fastball to right field but it came up well short of the wall. Crisis averted for the Yankees.

The seventh inning saw David Price get his sixth and seventh punch-outs of the evening, ending the inning and his night. His final line was 7.0 innings of scoreless baseball with just two hits allowed, making it another dominant start for the lefty ace. The Blue Jays made sure to put the game further out of reach in the bottom half against Branden Pinder, with a Donaldson walk, Bautista double, and an Encarnacion intentional free pass loading the bases. Andrew Bailey came in after that and got Justin Smoak to hit a pop up in foul ground near first base. The next hitter, Russell Martin, hit a sac fly to center to make it 4-0 but that was all the Jays could do with the situation as Goins grounded out. It was a missed opportunity to only get one run in an inning where the team had the bases loaded with no outs, but that's baseball.

Aaron Sanchez was used in his usual eighth inning role, but struggled mightily with his fastball command. After walking the leadoff man, the righty reliever allowed a single to Dustin Ackley on a curveball to put runners on the corners. The hook couldn't have been quicker as Sanchez was yanked for Brett Cecil to face the lefties at the top of the order. The move didn't work out that swell to start. Ellsbury singled home a run to slim the lead to just three runs. Brett Gardner worked a full count next, but was sat down looking on a high curveball that he was none too pleased about. Wee bit high:

Gardner

After that gift, Alex Rodriguez went down on a silly-looking swing against a Brett Cecil hook. It was the third strikeout of the night for the unlikeable Yankee, which shows there are baseball gods somewhere in this world. Cecil kept it going by retiring McCann on a curveball to end the inning invoking a huge ovation from the home crowd. Take a bow Brett Cecil. Three straight K's. No earned runs of his own allowed in 31 games. Bravo.

The Blue Jays went fairly quietly in the bottom half, setting up a chance for Roberto Osuna to redeem himself after Saturday's gong show of a blown save against the Red Sox. The first two outs were fairly elementary before Greg Bird got a hold of a fastball to the center field for a solo shot to make it 4-2. It got a little tense after that, but thankfully Didi Gregorius flied out to Pillar in center to end the game and get the first win of the series.

Jays of the Day are David Price (+.319 WPA) and Josh Donaldson (.103), with an honourable mention to Brett Cecil for his fantastic appearance in relief. No Suckage Jays on the evening.

<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=0&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2015-09-21&team=Blue Jays&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2015-09-21&team=Blue Jays&dh=0&season=2015">FanGraphs</a></span>

Tomorrow, Marco Estrada will take on Luis Severino in another huge matchup between the two teams who are currently only separated by 3.5 games. See you then!