Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

Terrible timing for another A-Rod injury

Monday’s open date, the Yankees’ last day off until May 23, did not appear to do anything to invigorate them. In fact, it may have done the opposite. While they did lose Sunday night to finish off being swept by the Red Sox, the Yankees scored seven runs.

Come Tuesday night in Baltimore, the Yankees went right back to their piddling offense. One measly run is all they could muster against the Orioles, who moved back into first place in the American League East with a 4-1 victory that jumped Baltimore back over the Red Sox, who lost to the White Sox.

And to make matters worse, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ hottest hitter on this trip, came up lame in the fifth inning and will undergo an MRI exam on his right hamstring Wednesday. A-Rod missed only two games in Texas at the start of the trip due to an oblique injury, so the Yankees are hopeful they can be that lucky again, except that is a 40-year-old hamstring.

A-Rod’s health was always going to be an issue this season, but the timing of his likely absence from the lineup could not be worse. Rodriguez has hit .353 with four runs, two doubles, three home runs and six RBI in 17 at-bats on a trip in which the Yankees have scored only 16 runs in seven games (2.3 per game), six of them losses. The Yanks have now lost twice as many games as they have won mostly because of an anemic offense and inconsistent starting pitching.

Luis Severino, who had been expected to emerge as a possible staff ace this season, fell to 0-4 with a 6.31 ERA. The righthander also embarrassed himself with two dropped balls trying to cover first base. One of the errors resulted in a run. Despite the PFP (pitchers fielding practice) blunders, Severino was hurt more by two fat pitches to Mark Trumbo, who homered off both of them in driving in three runs.

It was another disappointing outing from a starting pitcher. The Yankees’ rotation has a 4-11 record with a 5.13 ERA in 135 innings in which it has allowed 154 hits. With the margin for error so slim because of the weak run support, the Yankees cannot afford to have starters put them behind early in games.

The Yankees actually gave Severino a 1-0 lead in the second on Didi Gregorius’ two-out, RBI single, but the first of Trumbo’s two homers leading off the bottom half of the inning immediately tied the score. The Orioles filled the bases with two outs with Severino’s first error fueling the rally, but he got Manny Machado, the American League Player of the Month for April, on a popup to first baseman Mark Teixeira on the first pitch.

Baltimore took the lead in the fourth with an unearned run on Severino’s second dropped feed from Teixeira that allowed Jonathan Schoop, who had doubled with two out, to score.

Machado pulled a rock in the fifth when after he led off with a double tried to cross to third base on a grounder to the left side and was thrown out at third by Gregorius. Severino struck out Chris Davis but got victimized by Trumbo again.

The Orioles went down meekly after that as their last 10 batters were retired with Kirby Yates and Johnny Barbato pitching a shutout inning apiece. Baltimore was actually worse than the Yankees were in situations with runners in scoring position. The Orioles were 0-for-6 and the Yankees 1-for-7. The Yankees are actually hitting better with runners in scoring position on the trip (.225) than they are overall for the season (.201).

The Yankees left one runner on base in each of the first six innings against winning pitcher Chris Tillman, who finished strongly by striking out the side in the seventh.

Bats come alive, but Yanks drop 5th straight

On a night when the Yankees showed encouraging signs of breaking out of their offensive malaise, their pitchers were responsible for another loss that completed a three-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park and extended the losing streak to a season-high five games.

The 8-7 final marked the first time in eight games that the Yankees scored more than three runs in a game and only the sixth time in 23 games this year. They were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and totaled five extra-base hits, including career home run No. 692 for Alex Rodriguez, who has recovered quite nicely from that tweaked oblique last week. After missing two games, A-Rod has batted .429 with four runs, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 14 at-bats.

Sunday night’s game was a reversal for the Yankees in that the sluggish offense was not the culprit in a defeat. For the second time in three nights, Dellin Betances gave up a two-run home run in a late inning that supplied the deciding run. Friday night it was David Ortiz’s blast in the eighth on a first-pitch curveball. Sunday night, it was a monster shot to left field that went entirely out of the park by Christian Vazquez on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh.

Betances shouldered the blame for both games, but he certainly was not alone. Starter Nathan Eovaldi, who flirted with a no-hitter in his previous outing, surrendered leads of 3-1 and 6-4 in the bottom half of the innings in which the Yankees had gone ahead. Eovaldi was back to his old ways in giving up 10 hits in five-plus innings.

The loss was charged to Ivan Nova (1-1), who replaced Eovaldi in the sixth after a leadoff walk. Travis Shaw, who clocked a game-tying, two-run home run off Eovaldi in the fifth, singled off Nova with one down in the seventh. Brock Holt followed with a grounder to third baseman Chase Headley, who had trouble removing the ball from his glove as the Yankees were able to get a force at second base but not a double play. Betances then was summoned to pitch to Vazquez and allowed a home run for his third consecutive appearance.

Vazquez’s homer put David Price in position for the winning decision that ran his record with his new club to 4-0. It was not a pretty outing for Price, who raised his career mark against the Yankees to 14-7 despite a 4.17 ERA. The lefthander yielded six earned runs and eight hits in seven innings and heard booing at Fenway Park where he has pitched to an 8.34 ERA in four starts totaling 22 2/3 innings. Since the start of 2014, the Yanks have batted .303 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs against Price.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s second double of the game tied the score at 1 in the third inning. Two batters later, Rodriguez launched his fifth home run this season to make it 3-1. The Red Sox moved back ahead, 4-3, in the bottom half on a two-run single by Hanley Ramirez and a two-out, RBI single by Holt.

Rodriguez doubled home two runs in the fifth and scored on a single by Mark Teixeira as the Yankees regained the lead, 6-4. Again, Eovaldi could not hold it in yielding the bomb to Shaw. The Yankees made it a one-run game in the eighth with a run on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara, but that would be as close as they came.

While the Yankees sank deeper in the basement of the American League East with an 8-15 record, the Red Sox took over first place in the division by a half-game over the Orioles, who await the Bombers at Camden Yards for a three-game series that begins Tuesday night.

Weapons old and new sustain Yankees

The Yankees have a new weapon in their offensive arsenal this year. It is called catcher’s interference whereby a player is awarded first base if the opposing catcher interferes with the batter’s swing.

For the third time in a season that is only 16 games old for the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury reached base Saturday due to catcher’s interference, in this case that of Tampa Bay’s Hank Conger. It was a painful play as well for Conger, who hurt his left hand and had to come out of the game.

The situation kept a rally alive for the Yankees in the seventh inning. It came on a 3-2 pitch, which is Ellsbury’s favorite count these days. Friday night, he stole home on a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner, an unusual decision to say the least.

The catcher’s interference call loaded the bases for the Yanks with two out. Gardner followed with a laser-beam line drive off the glove of pitcher Xavier Cedeno, one of three lefthanders Rays manager Kevin Cash threw against the Bombers in the game. Cedeno keep the ball from getting to the outfield, but the infield single was good enough to score the tying run.

Knotting the score at that point put the Yankees in position to use their favorite bullpen formula, Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Masahiro Tanaka, who had a strong outing (two runs, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, one home run in seven innings) was off the hook with a no-decision. So, too, was Tampa Bay rookie Blake Snell, who held the Yankees to two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over five innings in an impressive major-league debut.

It was the Yankees’ more traditional weapon that settled Saturday’s game, a jolting home run by Gardner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Erasmo Ramirez, the only righthander in the game for the Rays.

Stacking lefties against the Yankees is a tactic by opponents. Cash will throw another lefthander, Drew Smyly, against the Yankees and Michael Pineda Sunday in the series finale. The idea, of course, is to neutralize Ellsbury and Gardner, left-handed outfielders at the top of the batting order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had taken to sitting one of them and using right-handed Aaron Hicks in the outfield against lefties, but Hicks got hurt Friday night and will be out for several more days because of traumatic bursitis in his left shoulder, so Ellsbury and Gardner were both in the lineup and had a huge game.

They combined to reach base five times in 10 plate appearances. Gardner had both RBI for the Yankees. Their other run was scored in the first inning on a wild pitch by Snell, who settled down after that. It was the first walk-off victory for the Yankees this season, and the second game-winning homer of Gardner’s career. The other was Aug. 11, 2013 against the Tigers.

Gardner has been the Yankees’ most consistent hitter on the homestand by batting .444 with five runs, two doubles, two home runs, four RBI and five walks in seven games and 25 at-bats.

This has been a big bounce back series for the Yanks, who were swept by Oakland and dropped two of three to Seattle in stumbling into last place in the American League East. They switched places with the Rays with the victories Friday night and Saturday.

Before the game, the Yankees saluted CC Sabathia, wife and mother Marge for their PitCCh In Foundation’s initiative to renovate a baseball field at Claremont Park in the Bronx. The Sabathia’s thanked supporters of the project to refurbish the facility at the corner of Clay and Webster Avenues at a cost of approximately $500,000. Partners involved with the Claremont Park project included members from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Yankees, the New York Police Department’s 44th Precinct and Roc Nation. The Foundation dedicated the field renovation to the Rolando Paulino Little League, which was represented by board member Emily Rufino and Little League players Justin Zapata and Elias Barcacel

Extra-inning loss drops Yanks into cellar

The Yankees’ first extra-inning game of the season ended on a sour note. Tuesday night as the Athletics pulled it out in the 11th, 3-2. The loss also dropped the Yankees into last place in the American League East with a 5-7 record, including falling below .500 (3-4) at home.

The Yankees have scored only nine runs in the four games on the homestand due mostly to getting only two hits in 42 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is a .048 batting average in clutch situations. For the season, the Yankees are batting .206 under those conditions.

One of those hits was a two-out single in the first inning by Alex Rodriguez that was an an encouraging sign. Alas, the Yankes did not get another one.

The opportunities were there. Brett Gardner led off the third with a double and moved no farther than second base. Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the fifth also put Starlin Castro on third base, but he was stranded. Chase Headley led off the ninth with a single, but Didi Gregorius could not get a bunt down and eventually flied out, and Jacoby Ellsbury pinch running was thrown out trying to steal second.

The Yankees ended up wasting a good outing by Michael Pineda (two runs, seven hits, one walk, seven strikeouts in six innings) and a shutout inning apiece from Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller before Oakland pushed home the deciding run against Johnny Barbato in his second inning. Jed Lowrie doubled, his fourth hit, and scored on a two-out single by Mark Canha.

Meanwhile in Boston, the Red Sox and Rays also went extras with neither team scoring in regulation, a rarity at Fenway Park, where the Rays won, 3-0, in the 10th. That lifted Tampa Bay above the Yankees in the standings. The Rays will come to town over the weekend. The Yankees hope not to be still in their rear window by then.

The Yankees are 5-13 in their past 18 games against the A’s.  . .Yankees pitchers had at least 10 strikeouts for the third straight game and eighth time in 12 games this season. Their 120 Ks are a club record through 12 games (previously 119 in 2012).

Yanks squander chance to clinch wild card berth

The Yankees have avoided talking about the wild card as their entry into postseason play as they held out hope of winning the American League East title against overwhelming odds. That hope faded for good Wednesday when the Blue Jays won the day game of a separate-admission doubleheader at Baltimore for their first division championship in 22 years.

The Yankees had a chance to clinch a wild card berth Wednesday night with a victory over the Red Sox combined with a loss by two of the following four teams: the Twins, Angels, Astros or Rangers. The Twinkies and the Halos cooperated by getting beat. That left it up to the Yankees to win at Yankee Stadium in order to spray champagne in getting back to the postseason for the first time in three years.

The Yanks could not hold up their end of the bargain and still face a magic number that is down to one. They were defeated for the third straight night by the Red Sox, who have moved into third place in the AL East since coming to the Bronx this week. Boston blew a 4-1 lead but came back to push the game into extra innings and won, 9-5, in 11.

Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the sixth with a solo home run (No. 33). Then with two down in the seventh, Dellin Betances entered in relief of a very effective Justin Wilson and allowed a game-tying home run to Mookie Betts, who had quite a night for the Red Sox amid a very impressive series.

The Red Sox busted out in the 11th against Andrew Bailey and Chasen Shreve. Bailey was touched for three singles in letting the Red Sox take the lead. Jackie Bradley drove in the second run with a suicide squeeze off Shreve, who then gave up a two-run home run to Betts, who is batting .400 with four runs, three doubles, three home runs and four RBI in 15 at-bats in the series.

The Yankees cannot say they did not have opportunities. They were retired in order in only one of the 11 innings and left 15 runners on base. They were 3-for-14 (.214) with runners in scoring position. It was a particularly brutal game for Didi Gregorius, who was 0-for-5 and stranded 10 runners, seven in scoring position.

The Yankees were challenged early as Travis Shaw smacked a three-run home run off Masahiro Tanaka with two out in the first inning.

Tanaka was making his first start in 12 days since he sustained a hamstring strain running out a ground ball at Citi Field. It has been generally assumed that Tanaka would get the call to start the wild-card playoff game Oct. 6, so Wednesday night’s start was viewed as a tuneup.

The Japanese righthander labored through the first inning on 36 pitches, not the way to begin an important start. Teammates came to his rescue, however, rebounding from a 4-1 deficit in the fifth to tie the score against Boston starter Wade Miley.

Doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran around a one-out walk to Rodriguez accounted for the first run of the inning. A decision by Shaw at first base to get the sure out there on a grounder by Brian McCann instead of trying to throw out the 40-year-old A-Rod at the plate led to another run with Beltran going to third. He scored the tying run on a hard single by Chris Young off third baseman Deven Marrero.

Miley loaded the bases with walks to Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder, but Didi Gregorius flied out to left. The rally meant a no-decision rather than a possible losing decision for Tanaka, who came out after the fifth. Refsnyder had hits in his first two at-bats, including an RBI double in the second.

A night full of nothing for the Yankees

No clinching a postseason berth. No attaining the franchise’s 10,000th victory. Not much of anything Monday night for the Yankees, who even lost more ground in their fleeting chance of winning the American League East title.

While the Yankees were in the process of losing to the Red Sox, 5-1, the Blue Jays came back from a 3-1, eighth-inning deficit in Baltimore to beat the Orioles, 4-3, as Toronto bloated its lead over the Yankees to five games with six to play.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Wild Card playoff game is likely the Yankees’ path to the postseason. Masahiro Tanaka can put himself in position to get the call for that game with a strong outing Wednesday night as he returns to the rotation for the first time in 11 days.

Ivan Nova was working on a five-hit shutout through five innings before giving up his 1-0 lead on two-run home runs by Travis Shaw in the sixth and Jackie Bradley in the seventh. Bradley was also a major factor on defense for Boston with two circus catches in left field that robbed Chase Headley and John Ryan Murphy of potential extra-base hits. Mookie Betts also made a dazzling grab in center field in the seventh to spoil a hit bid by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Nova, who was shipped to the bullpen briefly but returned to the rotation when Nathan Eovaldi went down with inflammation in his right elbow, fell to 6-10 and is now 1-6 with a 6.88 ERA over his past seven starts covering 35 1/3 innings. Deven Marrero got the Red Sox’ third home run of the game and the first of his career in the ninth off Caleb Cotham.

The Yankees had another frustrating game at the plate. One night after stranding 15 base runners, the Yankees left 10 on and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez, who drove in the Yankees’ run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, had a chance to break the game open in the second against Eduardo Rodriguez but struck out on a foul tip with the bases loaded. The Yankees had eight left on base over the first five innings leaving Nova scant margin for error.

Tanaka to start Wednesday night, lined up for wild card

The TBA (to be announced) was removed from Wednesday night’s probable starting pitcher for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound for that night’s game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, which would allow him five days’ rest before an anticipated start by the Japanese righthander in the wild-card playoff scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi still won’t discuss the wild-card situation for two reasons: one, the Yankees have yet to clinch a postseason spot yet, although their magic number is down to two and, two, the Yankees have not been mathematically eliminated from the American League East race, although it would take a major collapse on the part of the first-place Blue Jays, who have a four-game lead over the Yanks with seven to play.

Tanaka’s start Wednesday night would be more than a tuneup. He has not pitched since Sept. 18 at Citi Field against the Mets in which he sustained a Grade 1 sprain of his left hamstring while running to first base on a sacrifice bunt. Tanaka pitched six innings that night even though he hurt his leg in the second inning.

Assuming he has no setbacks Wednesday night, Tanaka would be in line to start the game the Yankees won’t talk about yet.

“I think we all wanted to get to this day,” Girardi said. “We wanted to make sure that he felt good and he could go through all the things that he needed to go through.”

Said Tanaka, through a translator: “I knew that I was going to be out there before the season ended. So, not a big surprise there, but yes, I’m relieved and happy to be out there.”

Severino continues to move up rotation ladder

The Yankees continue to hold out hope that they can catch the Blue Jays and win the American League East title, although the calendar keeps betraying them. They lost another day Sunday when their 6-1 victory over the White Sox was trumped by the Jays’ comeback, 5-4 victory at Toronto on Josh Donaldson’s ninth-inning home run.

So the space between the Yankees and the Blue Jays remains four games with seven to play. Yet manager Joe Girardi and his players are not yet ready to discuss the possibility of being in the wild card game, which grows more likely by the day.

It was hard not to think of that Sunday as the Yankees reduced their magic number for qualifying for the postseason for the first time in three years to three with a victory that featured six shutout innings from Luis Severino, who in a very short time has moved up the rotation ladder.

“He knows how to pitch,” catcher Brian McCann said of Severino, who just may enter the conversation once Girardi decided to talk about his wild-card game plans.

With Masahiro Tanaka still nursing an aching hamstring, it calls to question which pitcher would start the wild-card game that if the season ended tomorrow would be played at Yankee Stadium. At this point, the Yankees cannot know for sure who their opponent will be so setting up a starter now would be foolish.

Girardi did not announce his rotation for the final home series, a four-game set against the Red Sox, beyond Ivan Nova in the first game Monday night against Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox will follow with Rick Porcello Tuesday night, Wade Miley Wednesday night and Rich Hill Thursday night while the Yankees have listed TBA (to be announced).

If he is healthy, Tanaka could get the call Tuesday or Wednesday night. Thursday night would seem doubtful if Tanaka is in line to start the wild-card game, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then again, Girardi could choose Michael Pineda to start that game, and after what everyone saw Sunday Severino might have worked himself into the mix.

The rookie righthander scattered five hits over six innings with one walk and two strikeouts in improving his record to 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA. It was the second career scoreless start for Severino (also Aug. 29 at Atlanta). Over his past seven starts (since Aug. 22), he is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Severino is the first pitcher in franchise history to allow two or fewer runs in eight starts within his first 10 career major-league games.

The final score is a bit misleading because it was a 1-0 game for five of Severino’s six innings. The Yankees got a run without a hit in the first inning off Erik Johnson thanks to two errors by first baseman Jose Abreu but did not score again until Dustin Ackley led off the sixth with his ninth home run, his third since joining the Yankees. They added a second run that inning on a passed ball by catcher Rob Brantly.

Ackley has also worked himself into the playoff mix for the Yanks. Obtained July 30 in a trade from the Mariners, Ackley was out for a month with a back injury but has batted .300 with seven RBI in 40 at-bats since and could displace Stephen Drew as the Yanks’ regular second baseman.

Drew has been battling an inner-ear infection the past 10 days, an ailment that has caused dizziness and affected his balance. Drew and Brendan Ryan, who played third base Sunday, have been in a platoon at second base much of the second half.

The Yankees were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position before they got two hits in a row in those circumstances in the seventh — a single by Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter that loaded the bases and another single by Jacoby Ellsbury that got a run home. Both Yankees runs in the eighth were courtesy of rookies — Greg Bird with an RBI single and Slade Heathcott with a sacrifice fly.

The Yanks finished 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base, but those two runs in the eighth meant that Girardi did not have to use Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Sunday’s crowd of 38,690 boosted home attendance to 3,036,446 that marked the 17th consecutive season that the Yankees have drawn at least three million fans to the Stadium. The 2015 paid home attendance will reflect only 80 dates because of the single-admission doubleheader Sept. 12 against the Blue Jays.

Girardi won’t talk about postseason till Yanks qualify

As the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League East gets firmer by the day, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has begun to get questions about his plans for a potential wild card game. Girardi will not bite, and I do not blame him.

Girardi has taken the view that he will not discuss the postseason until the Yankees have qualified for it, which is only smart. There are still eight games remaining on the regular schedule, so why get ahead of himself?

Toronto remained four games up on the Yanks after both clubs won Saturday. The Yankees’ 2-1 victory over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium followed later in the day the Jays’ 10-8 triumph over the Rays at Rogers Centre. It remains a big hurdle for the Yankees to catch Toronto, but Girardi is not conceding anything yet. His view is that the Yanks need to keep winning no matter what — to stay on the Blue Jays’ tails and to ensure that should the wild card game be their entry into postseason play that they play that game at the Stadium.

Adam Warren had a shaky first inning but settled down to give the Yankees six quality innings. The run he gave up to the first two batters in the game — Adam Eaton singled, stole second and scored on a single by Jose Abreu — was the only one he allowed. Warren yielded another hit thar frame before Adam LaRoche hit into a double play.

Warren gave up no hits or runs after that inning but ran into some difficulty in the fifth after his string of 12 straight outs ended with the White Sox loading the bases on three walks and having to face Abreu again with two out.

“I just walked everybody to get to their best hitter and one of the best hitters in the game; yeah, that was real smart,” Warren said with a dose of sarcasm. “Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] and Mac [Brian McCann, catcher] calmed me down, and we stuck with the game plan.”

Warren stayed with a still muscular fastball against last year’s AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner. After fouling off four straight pitches — three fastballs and a slider — Abreu swung through a 93-mph heater.

That was a crucial point in the game because it was still 1-0 White Sox. The Yankees finally got to Chicago starter John Danks in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury started things off with a single and a stolen base, an important steal because Chase Headley followed with a double that bounced over the fence in left-center. If not for swiping second, Ellsbury would have had to stop at third base on the two-bagger.

Alex Rodriguez then smoked a one-hopper off the glove of third baseman Mike Ott, the force of which sent the ball into the stands for another automatic double that chased home Chase with what proved the deciding run.

The bullpen took over from there with a perfect seventh from Justin Wilson, a perfect eighth from Dellin Betances and a perfect ninth from Andrew Miller (36th save) to preserve the victory for Warren (7-7). The final 13 Chicago batters were retired in order.

“Those three guys have been doing it all year,” Warren said. “We feel that if we have the lead after six we have the game won.”

The four strikeouts by the relief corps boosted the pen’s season total to 573, breaking by two the AL record the Yankees set last year. The all-time record for strikeouts by a bullpen is 589 by the Rockies in 2012.

Warren improved his record at the Stadium this year to 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his seven home starts this season. Warren has given up three or fewer runs in each of his past 12 starts dating to May 8. That matches the longest such single-season stretch by a Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry from June 2 through Sept. 29, 1981.t

Bird likes those ducks on the pond

Take heed all you sluggers that refuse to bunt against the shift, especially leading off an inning in a tie game when getting on base is the priority.

It works!

How delightful it was to see Brian McCann push his ego aside and drop a bunt to a practically empty left side of the infield for a leadoff single in the 10th inning Tuesday night. It was a rally starter for the Yankees, and they cashed in later in the inning on a three-run home run by Greg Bird off relief pitcher Mark Lowe.

There was a playoff atmosphere at Rogers Centre where the Yankees got back to 2 1/2 games behind the firt-place Blue Jays in the American League East with the 6-4, 10-inning victory before a packed house of 47,992. Bird’s homer quieted the crowd, which woke up momentarily in the bottom of the 10th on a home run by Edwin Encarnacion.

Bird has homered in three straight games and has 10 homers and 28 RBI in 34 games. The rookie first baseman also doubled. Of his past 17 hits, 13 have been for extra bases (eight home runs and five doubles).

Put people on base in front of Bird and watch out. He is batting .370 with four doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI in 54 at-bats with runners on base compared to .164 with three doubles, two homers and two RBI in 67 at-bats with the bases empty.

It sure would be nice if the Yankees had Masahiro Tanaka available to pitch Wednesday night in the series finale, but the Japanese righthander was scratched because of a hamstring injury with Ivan Nova taking his place against Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.

Luis Severino was not the least bit overwhelmed starting an important game against a team he had faced twice previously and beat him up 11 days ago at Yankee Stadium (six earned runs, six hits, two home runs in 2 1/3 innings).

The rookie did give up the 2-0 lead the Yankees gave him in the first inning, but he held the AL’s most potent lineup to three hits. The 2-3-4 sluggers Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — each with more than 30 home runs this season — were a combined 0-for-7 with two walks.

One of the walks was to Donaldson, who scored the tying run in the sixth on a two-out single by Justin Smoak. The other run off Severino was a solo homer in the third by Kevin Pillar.

Bautista did more damage with his strong right arm than anything else. He killed two Yankees rallies with outfield assists. The right fielder gunned down Dustin Ackley at third base in the seventh on a play that was overturned by a replay challenge after the original call was that the runner was safe.

Even more dramatic was Bautista’s throw in the ninth inning that got Chris Young at the plate. The Yankees had runners on second and third with none out, but the double play foiled things and after a walk to Brett Gardner Alex Rodriguez flied out.

An insurance run or two there would have been a big help in the bottom of the ninth for Andrew Miller, who blew a save for only the second time in 36 opportunities this year when he gave up a one-out home run to Dioner Navarro. The Blue Jays went on to load the bases with two out against Miller, but he struck out Donaldson as the game went into extras.

The Yankees attacked Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada early by scoring twice in the first inning. The suddenly-hot Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by McCann that also sent Rodriguez, who had walked, to third base. Carlos Beltran got A-Rod home with a sacrifice fly. Beltran got an even bigger RBI in the eighth with a solo homer off Liam Hendriks before the ninth-inning turn of events.

Ellsbury doubled twice and is batting .440 in 25 at-bats during his six-game hitting streak. Since the start of 2013, Ellsbury has hit safely in 23 of 25 games at Rogers Centre and reached base on a hit, walk or hit by pitch in all but one. In a 12-game hitting streak at Toronto dating to June 24 last year, Ellsbury is hitting .431 with eight runs, four doubles, two triples, two home runs and eight RBI in 51 at-bats.

Blue Jays lefthander David Price, the winning pitcher Monday night over the Yankees with seven shutout innings, lowered his AL-leading ERA to 2.34. He has won 13 games since June 1 and is 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA since being traded to Toronto from Detroit. Price, who was 9-4 with the Tigers, is one of four pitchers since 1893 to win at least eight games and had winning records for two different teams in the same season. The other three all pitched for the Yankees during their careers: Hank Borowy, traded by the Yanks to the Cubs in 1945; David Cone, traded by the Blue Jays to the Yanks in 1995 and Bartolo Colon, traded by the Indians to the Expos in 2002. Colon, now with the Mets, pitched for the Yankees in 2011. Since 1980, four other pitchers won at least eight of their first 10 starts with the new team after being acquired by an in-season trade: Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 for the Cubs, Doyle Alexander in 1987 for the Tigers, Randy Johnson in 1998 for the Astros and CC Sabathia in 2008 for the Brewers. The latter three pitched for the Yankees during their careers: Alexander in 1982 and ’83, Johnson in 2005 and ’06 and Sabathia since 2009.

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