Yankees’ Rookies Collaborate to Knock Blue Jays Out of Undisputed First Place in AL East
NEW YORK – Not one line in New York Yankee pitcher Chad Green’s biography would have indicated to the Blue Jays that they were facing the second coming of Cy Young Monday night.
Then again, there’s been a lot of that going around. The Jays have made quite a habit of inflating the strikeout totals of young pitchers just getting their feet wet all over the American League.
And so it was in this series opener against a kid whose three previous starting assignments this season had resulted in 24 hits plus 10 walks and 15 earned runs over 18 innings. All Green did was shut the Jays out over six innings, striking out 11, allowing just two hits on the way to a 1-0 New York victory in the opener of this three-game series.
The only run the Yankees needed was delivered by Aaron Judge, another fresh-off-the-farm prospect, who is now hitting .500 with three RBI and two home runs in his four games as a big-leaguer. His double off Toronto starter and loser R.A. Dickey scored Brian McCann from second base in the fourth inning.
The Jays did find themselves a ray of hope in the top of the ninth inning when catcher Josh Thole led off with a walk against Yankee cloaser Dellin Betances.
After Devon Travis popped out to first base, Josh Donaldson singled, sending pinch-runner Junior Lake scurrying for third base with just one out. But hope died quickly when Edwin Encarnacion’s hot smash down the third base line was corraled by third baseman Chase Headley, who was able to turn the double play and end the game.
“Great pitching performance by both sides,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “It’s always frustrating for whoever is on the short end of one of those games. We battled.
“I thought we had a shot at the end but Headley made a good play on Eddie’s ball. It was a big hit by Josh after a tough at-bat by Thole. But it’s tough to have to do something against Betances.”
It wasn’t as if the Blue Jays made a lot of chances for themselves. Through the first eight innings, they had a grand total of two base runners, combining back-to-back hits in the top of the fifth inning. Neither Troy Tulowitzki nor Darrell Ceciliani advanced one foot further as Green fanned two in a row to end the inning.
Green retired the first 13 hitters he faced, fanning six, getting five more on ground balls, one on a pop-up and one on a weak fly ball.
“Green was really good tonight,” said Gibbons. “He’s got a dynamite arm. He was confident and you could see that as the game went on.”
But with one out in the fifth, Tulowitzki drilled a solid single into left field. Ceciliani followed immediately with a double to left, putting runners at second and third. Green quickly regained his composure to strike out Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton in succession to keep the Jays off the scoreboard.
“We held it in check,” said Gibbons. “Our whole pitching staff did its job tonight. We had the one chance with second and third with one out but when we needed some contact, we couldn’t get it.”
Dickey pitched himself into, and out of, trouble in each of the first two innings, allowing the first two batters in each inning to reach base before erasing the next three each time. All that grinding pushed up his pitch count to 47 for two innings. He needed just six pitches to get through the third inning but was right back in trouble in the fourth.
With one out, Dickey walked McCann and catcher Gary Sanchez in succession. Young slugger Aaron Judge, becoming a fast fan favourite, then slugged a double to the wall in right-centre, scoring the game’s first run. Once again, Dickey clutched up and struck out the next two hitters, stranding runners at second and third.
“The only trouble I had was the two walks,” said Dickey. “I felt as strong as I ever have this year. The last couple of months I’ve had the feeling that I was on the verge of a string of great starts.”
Unfortunately, all those baserunners required Dickey to throw 80 pitches over the first four innings, putting him on an early exit ramp. He made his departure after five innings, trailing 1-0, having allowed just four hits but also four walks.
“I feel like I could throw 120 pitches, no problem,” said Dickey. “At this time of the year it’s how you want to feel. Unfortunately I had some high pitch-count innings. I felt like I could have pitched really deep into that game.”
With Dickey out of the game in the sixth, Joe Biagini got himself into a heap of trouble, loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. He then rallied to get a ground ball back to the mound that translated into one out at the plate. The pivotal moment in the inning came as Biagini fanned Chase Headley on a checked-swing fastball to keep it a one-run ball game.
But that one run was all New York needed. Green departed after striking out the side in both the fifth and sixth innings, those back-to-back hits in the fifth the only blemish on his line. Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and, finally, Betances, each tossed a scoreless inning to put this one away.
The Yankees loaded the bases in both the sixth and eighth innings and the Jays wriggled out of both jams but they could not profit from their good fortune against the New York bullpen.