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Flippin’ Bats: Yankees vs. Blue Jays series recap

The Yankees final road trip of the season would finish with a four-game set in Toronto.  With the Jays holding the first wildcard position, what better opportunity to move up.  The Jays have struggled in September, going 7-12 thus far.  This included an early month three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.  The Jays will certainly be ready to protect their lead and things will not be as easy this time around.

Fading from contention

Bryan Mitchell matched up with Francisco Liriano in the series opener and although Mitchell seemed destined for a rough night early on, in the end, he showed real grit in lasting six innings.  Luck has a big effect on games occasionally, and this was no exception.  An error on Billy Butler opened up just enough room for the Jays to get two unearned runs in the first inning.   Two singles and two walks in the second plated another and the thought had to be that Mitchell just didn’t have it on this night.  A slick double play started by Ronald Torreyes kept matters from being worse.  He would settle down and retire 12 of the last 15 hitters he faced.  Nice job on the road and against that lineup.  He could have been bludgeoned and never made it to the third inning.

Liriano had a similar start to the game as Mitchell, but the Yankee offense couldn’t get the big hit to push across any runs.  They left the bases loaded in the first inning and had two on and nobody out in the third inning to come up empty.  The only difference was that Liriano’s defense didn’t let him down and his offense gave him some support.  At the end of the day, both pitchers went six innings, the only difference being that Liriano had a shutout going and the Jays were up 3-0 heading to the seventh.  Thems the breaks sometimes.

The Jays broke things open in the seventh and eighth against the bullpen, scoring six runs to put the game away and make the final 9-0.  The offense had little to offer other than Sanchez’s two hits.  The Yankees were officially eliminated from the division race, even though that was a foregone conclusion.  They are 4.0 games back of the suddenly hot Tigers for the second wildcard, so playing spoiler is starting to look like the team’s destiny the final week of the season.

The scoreless streak continues

No matter how well C.C. Sabathia would pitch on Saturday afternoon, it would not be good enough.  The Yankees offense has completely bottomed out since scoring 11 against Tampa on Wednesday.  They would be shut out in this contest and the streak would reach 27 innings without scoring a run after the game went final.

Sabathia was in complete control on the mound.  He limited hard contact and seemingly breezed through 7.0 innings while only allowing four hits.  He has pitched very well of late with an ERA of 2.57 in his last seven starts.  A lack of run support in those outings has produced only one win for the big left-hander.

Tyler Clippard would pitch the eighth and after getting two quick outs to start the inning, the wheels would fall off.  A single by Josh Donaldson and a walk to Edwin Encarnacion would lead to Clippard grooving a 2-1 fastball that Joey Bautista would park in the left field seats.  The three runs were all that the Jays would need as the Yankee offense had no response.

Three hits and three walks were all they could muster.  A caught stealing and two double plays would keep any hope of those baserunners getting close to scoring.  The Yankees have been shutout in 7 of their last 31 contests.  Not what you want when a playoff spot in on the line.

A tough ending

The Yankees finally broke through and scored a few runs, but not before the scoreless streak reached 33 innings.  Yikes.  The seventh inning of a Sunday afternoon contest and you finally tally a run for the first time since late Wednesday?? Didi Gregorius led off the seventh with a solo home run that actually tied the game at 1-1.  Once again, starting pitching that was asked to almost be perfect.  Michael Pineda would go 5.2 innings giving up three hits, one run, while walking three and striking out seven.  With a run on the board, maybe there was hope of a breakout offensively on the way.

In a flip-flop of Saturday’s bullpen management, Joe Girardi would bring in Betances to pitch against the heart of the Jays lineup in the eighth inning on Sunday.  Even though it was the right move, things just didn’t quite work out.  Betances seemingly running out of steam in the final weeks for the second season in a row, gave up the go-ahead run on a single from Bautista.

The Yankees would not go quietly against Jays closer Roberto OsunaMason Williams would single in the tying run and Torreyes would give the Yankees the lead with a sacrifice fly.  Still showing some fight, the Yankees headed to the bottom of the ninth and would send Betances back out to the mound.

Betances would walk the lead-off man and Clippard would come in to try and close things out.  He allowed a single to Kevin Pillar and then his throwing error on a bunt allowed the tying run to score and put runners on second and third with nobody out.  A walk to Donaldson ensued in order to bring up a double play opportunity, but Encarnacion would have none of it as he would poke a hit just far enough away from Torreyes to allow the winning run to score.  Sigh.  The Yankees are now a combined 3-16 on the road this season against Toronto and Boston.  You can’t complain about not competing in your division with a record like that.

Fireworks early, late…Yankees win

In a game that had an ending looking similar to Sunday’s outcome, the Yankees somehow managed to stay on top and pull out the finale of the four-game set.  The game  took on an unnecessary ugly tone early and  four Yankees would get ejected, including starting pitcher Luis Severino.  What started out as a grazing of Josh Donaldson’s elbow armor ended up with a couple of bench clearing episodes in the first two innings.  What Severino’s role for 2017 is going to be is yet to be determined, if he is to stay a starter as Girardi has stated, he has much work to do.  An 8.79 ERA in 10 starts ain’t going to cut it.

After order was restored, the Jays took a 3-2 lead to the ninth.  A second round of fireworks made it seem like this inning would never end.  The game was tied on Mark Teixeira‘s bat flip solo home run with one out.  Two batters later Aaron Hicks would put the Yankees ahead with a two-run homer.  An Ellsbury single and a Sanchez sacrifice fly would put the Bombers up 7-3 and bring in Betances to shut things down.

Betances would see a flashback to  his days in the minors as a starting pitcher return momentarily as he could not throw anything close to a strike.  Two walks sandwiched around an error had the bases loaded with nobody out and Tommy Layne coming in to pitch.  Betances has really been struggling and has been beaten around a bit the past few weeks.

Layne would retire Donaldson before a walk to Encarnacion would bring in a run.  A bloop single would plate another, but Layne would make a fabulous play on a tapper in front of the plate for the second out.  1 unassisted on a force out at home plate.  Don’t see that one in the scorebook very often.  Gardner would make a sliding catch in foul territory in left field to end the game and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief with the 7-5 victory.  That’s a ninth inning of a ballgame between two teams with struggling closers.