In the top of the first inning, it appeared things might go south early for the Jays again as an Ezequiel Carrera error put Brett Gardner at third with nobody out. However, Francisco Liriano was up to the challenge. He stranded Gardner 90 feet from home with a Gary Sanchez ground out, an Aaron Judge strike out, and a Matt Holliday fly out. As it turned out, the biggest harbinger for the rest of the game in this half inning was the failure to hit with runners in scoring position.
The Blue Jay bats immediately made the Yankees missed opportunity costly as both Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak sent souvenirs towards the outfield seats in the bottom of the inning. Smoak’s bomb was a two-run shot on a night where he also added a sac fly two innings later giving him more RBI (37) than strike outs (35) on the season. What a fantastic year he’s having! Even the optimists are blushing at this point.
Smoak’s impact was also felt on defense. In the top of the third inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with just one out; but Liriano once again showed off his ability to escape from trouble as he got Matt Holliday to hit a ground ball to third which Donaldson, Travis and Smoak turned into a twin killing. Smoak made a particularly impressive pick out of the dirt on this play to end the inning, saving at least one run.
The biggest Yankee rally came in the sixth when they chased Liriano from the game with a leadoff hit from Sanchez and a home run from Judge (his league leading 18th jack of the season). That was immediately followed by a Holliday walk and a Starlin Castro home run to right off Danny Barnes to make it 5-4. This was the quietest Rogers Centre got all night.
In the bottom of the inning, the Blue Jays responded with Josh Donaldson’s second long ball of the night, pushing the lead back to two runs at 6-4. And when the Yankees again pulled to within a run in the top of the seventh, the Jays again immediately responded with a run of their own.
This time they strung things together as Smoak reached on a hard hit ball that Chris Carter mistakenly thought got through the shift. By the time he realized it didn’t, he was out of position and the hustling Smoak beat him to the bag. Then Tulo came up and immediately whacked a double to left setting up a long at bat between Devon Travis and Chasen Shreve that resulted in a long sac fly that nearly made it in the gap.
From there, the bullpen took care of business. Joe Smith pitched around a leadoff single from Aaron Hicks to hold the lead at 7-5, and then we had an Osuna matata ninth as our closer retired the top of the Yankees order on just eight pitches (seven of them strikes).
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from this game is that both teams went a combined 0-16 with runners in scoring position (0-9 for the Yankees and 0-7 for the Jays). The missed opportunities were always more costly for the Yankees though as the Jays were able to generate two sac flies while the Yankees managed none. In one way, that was the difference. The Jays found ways to score when it felt like they absolutely needed to and the Yankees didn’t.
On another night where both teams are getting balls to miss gloves in these spots, you might have a 12-10 type game - And I have a feeling we might see one of those between these two lineups before the season’s out. Thankfully, that didn’t happen tonight.
With the win, the Jays move back to within a game of .500 again (27-28), and if they can somehow manage to take both of the remaining games in this series (a tall task), they’ll be just 3.5 games off the division lead after starting the season with an abysmal 6-17 record.
They’ll send Joe Biagini to the mound tomorrow against Jordan Montgomery at 1:07 p.m. to try to ensure at least a split of the series.
Jays of the Day: Smoak (.188) and Donaldson (.172) were the only two bats to get the number thanks to their home runs, but we’re going to give one out to the entire offense as a whole since every single starter got at least one hit in this game. Then there’s also Francisco Liriano’s work (.107) in his first start off the DL. Finally, let’s give one to both Smith (0.77) and Osuna (0.76) whole completely locked down the game in the eighth and ninth after the Yankees looked like they were getting their hitting shoes on in the sixth and seventh.
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