2017-09-22 23:54:03
Blue Jays 8, Yankees 1: Yankees’ Hopes for an Early Clinching Go Down in a Hail of Homers

23:54, September 22 155 0

TORONTO — The Yankees began their final road trip of the season with a small chance of clinching a playoff berth by the end of their first night here in Toronto. It would have required them to win on Friday and two teams playing elsewhere — the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers — to lose.

Because the Rangers had a late game in Oakland, the Yankees faced the possibility that they would secure their second wild-card berth in three years while snug in bed at their hotel.

But the Yankees’ part of the three-team equation did not materialize. The Blue Jays pounded them, 8-1, as Masahiro Tanaka (12-12) gave up three home runs, seven earned runs and one unearned run. Ryan Goins hit the second grand slam of his career in the sixth inning, Teoscar Hernandez hit a bases-empty shot in the third, and the former Yankee Russell Martin hit a two-run blast in the fourth.

The only power generated by the Yankees came on another Aaron Judge home run. After thrilling the fans here with his typical display of raw power in batting practice, Judge hit his 46th homer of the year and his third in the last four games.

In the sixth, Tanaka walked Jose Bautista as the leadoff batter, just as he had done before Martin’s homer in the fourth inning. Kevin Pillar singled, but Tanaka struck out Martin and Miguel Montero, hinting that he still had the stuff to get safely out of the inning.

But he walked pinch-hitter Kendrys Morales to load the bases, and Manager Joe Girardi left him in to face Goins, who rocketed a high slider over Judge’s head and into the seats beyond right field for his eighth homer of the season. The only other grand slam of his career came earlier this year.

Judge’s own blast came off an 89-mile-per-hour fastball from Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada (10-8) in the first inning. Estrada’s pitch floated up in the strike zone, and even though Judge did not get his arms fully extended at the point of contact, he still drove the ball quickly into the second deck of the Rogers Centre.

The homer gave Judge 120 runs scored this season, extending his American League lead. He has scored in 12 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Yankee since Johnny Damon in 2006.

After batting .207 with 10 home runs in July and August, Judge has picked up his pace considerably in September. In the 13 games before Friday night, he had batted .279 with seven home runs and 17 runs scored, and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 1.128 in that span.

Girardi said Judge’s patience at the plate had helped him break out of his prolonged slump and resume a campaign that many expect will conclude with American League Rookie of the Year honors.

“Even through his difficult times, he was still managing to walk and find ways to get on base,” Girardi said before Friday’s game. “I think that patience paid off.”

But soon after Judge gave the Yankees the lead, sloppy defense helped the Blue Jays wipe it away. Hernandez led off the bottom of the first with a single to left field, then should have been erased at second base on Josh Donaldson’s ground ball to third. But second baseman Starlin Castro was unable to handle Todd Frazier’s throw. The ball bounced into center field. Hernandez went to third and scored easily on a ground out by Bautista.

That run was unearned, but two innings later Hernandez needed no assistance from faulty fielding. He cracked a line drive on a 1-2 pitch for his third homer in only 19 games this season.

When Martin blasted his 13th homer of the season over the wall in left field in the next inning, it became clearer that any Yankee celebration would have to wait.