It was a highly entertaining and dramatic late September game befitting two division rivals duking it out for the division title. In the end, the Jays were played comeback for most of the night, and after meeting multiple punches with counter punches, never led and fell short in the 10th.
Marco Estrada did not start things off on a high note, his command shaky. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a double, and with one out walked Alex Rodriguez. Brian McCann hit an RBI single to right, and Carlos Beltran followed with a sac fly to stake the Yankees to a quick 2-0 lead. Greg Bird hit a hard ground ball down the first base line, past Justin Smoak who really should have come up with it. It was initially ruled an error but later ruled a double, but in any event Estrada got Chase Headley swinging on a pretty curveball to end the inning with no further damage.
Fortunately, Estrada settled in after that, working around another double by Ellsbury with two out in a comparatively quick second inning. The third inning was similar, except it was a two out single to Beltran and Estrada punctuated the inning by getting Greg Bird to swing and miss thrice. Even so, his pitch count was already up to 55 after three.
In the meantime, the bats couldn't get anything going against Luis Severino. Ben Revere led off with an infield single off Headley's glove at 3rd, but was immediately erased as Josh Donaldson smashed a grounder up the middle, but easily within Dustin Ackley's range for an easy 4-6-3 double play.
The second inning was much of the same, as the Jays went down in order on nine pitches, bringing Severino's total to 15 on the night. The third started with more of the same in a Ryan Goins ground ball, but Kevin Pillar worked a 2-2 count before turning on a mistake fastball over the heart of the plate and crushing it to the second deck to cut the deficit in half. Severino is learning the same thing as Osuna: even if you're throwing 96, if it's left up over the plate it will get hit - and hard.
In the 4th, the Jays evened the score. Donaldson walked leading off, moving to second on a wild pitch. With two out, Justin Smoak singled down the left field win. Beltran's throw home was so weak as to effectively end up to the cutoff man, so Donaldson scored but Smoak was DOA at second base.
By this point, Estrada was in cruise control, with a perfect turn through the Yankees' lineup over the 4th to 6th innings by inducing weak contact. When he came out for the 7th at 95 pitches to face the bottom of the order, he had retired 10 in a row and 16 or 18 going back to the 1st. He extended that to 11 before walking Dustin Ackley. With three lefties up and Aaron Loup ready, John Gibbons elected to stick with Estrada to face Didi Gregorious. I thought it was a fair decision, but Gregorius lined a single to right, and Ackley went to third. Bautista made an okay throw, but Donaldson made a great and quick tag. The ump ruled Ackley safe, but on review it was clear Donaldson got the tag on him before he got in.
With Ellsbury up, Gibby made a curious move, intentionally walking the lefty Ellsbury to get to the lefty Gardner and bringing Loup in. Ellsbury's 5/12 career off Loup versus 1/10 for Garnder, but I'd have preferred to see them go after Ellsbury directly rather than putting a runner. Loup got a grounder, but it ticked his glove for an infield hit. With A-Rod due up and the bases loaded, Liam Hendriks was summoned. And he slammed the door, striking him out on three fastballs.
Hendriks stayed in for the 8th, to face the heart of the order and giving up the platoon advantage to each (L/S/L/S). Overall, he acquitted himself quite well, with a popout and two strikeouts. Unfortunately, in between he left one straight fastball over the plate to Beltran, who crushed it over the wall for a 3-2 lead. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Pillar led off the bottom of the 8th against Dellin Betances with a solid single, and was bunted over by Kawasaki to a huge ovation from the crowd because yay free outs. After Revere struck out, Betances wanted nothing to do with Donaldson, walking him on four pitches. Or Bautista, who walked on five pitches to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion. EE got ahead 2-0, but missed his chance: a 2-1 fastball down the pipe, albeit it at 99. And then struck out to end the inning.
Gibby brought out Drew Hutchison for the 9th, I assume in a vain attempt to conjure up the run support genies since he had Mark Lowe among others available. Alas, after getting ahead 0-2 he walked Chris Young leading off and then Gregorius battled back from 0-2 to smash a ground rule double and that was all for him. The outcomes were injury enough, the way it happened added myriad insult.
Ryan Tepera's first pitch was a fly ball into right field which looked deep enough, but once again Bautista has something to say about that. This once was an absolute strike to nail Chris Young and hold the line at one run. Gardner walked, but Tepera got Alex Rodriguez to fly out to end the threat.
The Tepera/Bautista efforts proved critical, as Andrew Miller came in looking to finish things and was on track after embarrassing
Juan Francisco Smoak with his slider. But the game turned on a dime, as Dioner Navarro got an elevated fastball over the middle of the plate and destroyed it on a line to left field to tie the game.
Then things got even more interesting. Chris Colabello pinch hit for Ryan Goins, and struck out. Kevin Pillar added to his perfect day, blooping a double down the right field line. Matt Hague pinch hit for Kawasaki, and was intentionally walked to get to Revere, who was removed for Russell Martin to get the favourable platoon split. Martin worked a walk to load the bases for Donaldson. MVP! MVP! MVP! But he struck out and to strand the bases loaded again and off we went to extras.
Finally, in came Mark Lowe, sigh of relief. For a second as least, before things unraveled. McCann reached on abunt single to Donaldson who made a wild desperation throw, and then Navarro's glove caught Slade Heathcott's bat as he swung, allowing him to reach on catcher's interference. That brought up Greg Bird and Lowe got ahead of Bird 0-2, but he couldn't finish him off. In fact, the reverse, as Bird smashed a 2-2 slider over the wall in RF for a three run blast to effective finish off the Jays.
In the bottom of the 10th with Miller back out, Encarnacion finally connected on his 35th home run of the season. But it was a merely glancing blow at this point, too little too late, and they fell.
Jays of the Day: MVPillar (+0.332 WPA, 3/3, 2B, HR, BB), Navarro (+0.385 though that doesn't count the catcher's interference), Tepera (+0.130, h/t Bautista), Estrada (+0.114)
Suckage: Lowe (-0.464), Encarnacion (-0.285), Donaldson (-0.166), Kawasaki (-0.107), Revere (-0.094), Hutch (-0.093 to two batters he both had in 0-2 holes). Smoak (-0.077) should have one too for looking like Juan Francisco against offspeed and being so slow.
In the end, this one was really about timing. The Yankees got a couple of cheap runners on before a big blast. The Jays hit three home runs, but only scored four runs. EE connected in the end, but missed fastballs in hitter counts earlier when it would have been dispositive. Etc etc etc.
Tomorrow the Jays look to take the series and get the division lead back to 3.5 as Marcus Stroman takes on Ivan Nova at 7:05 ET.