Sabathia struggles early, but Yankees rally late to take series from Blue Jays

Having split the first two games on Monday and Tuesday night, both the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees sought a win on Wednesday night to claim the series over their division rival.  The Yankees looked to build off a strong win last night and remain atop the AL East standings while the Blue Jays were hoping to take their second consecutive series as they attempt to climb out of the AL East basement.

It was fireworks early on in the Bronx as both starting pitchers struggled right out of the gate in this one.  CC Sabathia was on the hill for the Yankees, coming off two very disappointing performances. He was opposed by Marcus Stroman who, aside from one bad start in Boston last month, had pitched very well on the young season. 

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Right from the get-go, Sabathia looked to be the same pitcher that had gotten hit hard both in Pittsburgh as well as at home versus Baltimore last Friday night.  Toronto got to Sabathia for four runs in the top of the first inning as the first two hitters, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista, reached via singles.  Following a strikeout by Russell Martin and a flyout to right by Kendrys Morales, the Jays got on the board first via a single by Justin Smoak, scoring Pillar who tagged up to third on the Morales flyout.  The next batter was Steve Pearce who already had two home runs to his name off of Tanaka last night, and Sabathia threw arguably his worst pitch of the night – a 91 mile per hour fastball right down Broadway that Pearce deposited in the visitor's bullpen for a quick 4-0 lead. Gross. 

In the bottom half of the inning the Yankees put the first two men on base as well after Brett Gardner extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single and then Aaron Hicks walked.  Up next was Matt Holliday who blasted his fifth home run of the season – and 300th of his career – into Monument Park, quickly cutting the Toronto lead to just one.  Judge would single with one out but get thrown out trying to steal second, and after a Chase Headley walk, Chris Carter struck out to end the frame. 
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Sabathia was given a second chance courtesy of the Yankees offense but it was clear he wanted no part of winning tonight.  The second inning was almost as ugly as the first.   Darwin Barney hit a sharp grounder past third for a leadoff double and then Ryan Goins laid down a perfect bunt that went for an infield single.  Toronto was set up again with first and third with nobody out.  Pillar grounded back to CC, who was able to hold Barney at third and get the out at first, but then the big lefty lost Bautista to a walk after having him down in the count 0-2.  It was shades of Phil Hughes all over again. And it happened again the very next batter as Russell Martin was able to force a bases loaded walk to drive in Toronto's fifth run on the night.  Morales grounded out to first and Chris Carter inexplicably got the force out at second instead of cutting down the run at the plate and Toronto was up 6-3. 

In the bottom half of the second the Yankees threatened again.  Stroman uncharacteristically walked Kyle Higashioka and then Gardner shot a single through the hole between third and short, his second hit of the night.  However, that's where the rally would end as Hicks wasn't able to convert a 3-0 count into anything and grounded out to first (runners advanced to second and third). Matt Holliday would follow by grounding out to second.   

Sabathia would return for the top of the third and immediately walked Steve Pearce on four pitches.  It wasn't quite clear if he was struggling to locate his pitches or was just working around Pearce who had taken him deep in his last at bat.  CC was able to recover, however, striking out Devon Travis and then drawing a big inning-ending double play. 

I fully expected Stroman to settle into a groove after he escaped the jam in the bottom of the second, but the Yankees tacked on two more runs to once again draw within a run of Toronto.  Castro led off with a single to center and then the baaaaadddd man Aaron Judge went deep yet again – his 13th of the season. After three innings, the score was 6-5. 

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Surprisingly enough, it was actually Sabathia who began to settle into a groove.  He struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth.  Even more surprisingly, John Gibbons lifted Marcus Stroman after just three innings and a 6-5 lead.  After the game it was announced this was due to an injury.  Ryan Tepera came on to pitch the fourth and the Yankees again threatened, but a Matt Holliday double play ended another scoring opportunity. 

 For CC Sabathia, after retiring six straight, it all came undone again in the fifth.  He again walked Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales singled. With first and second and nobody out, Joe Girardi didn't want the game to get out of hand and called upon Adam Warren. In 4.0+ innings of work, Sabathia allowed 11 base runners and six earned runs. Warren beautifully worked out the jam and the Yankees would load the bases in the bottom of the fifth but failed to score as Kyle Higashioka looked at a questionably called strike three on a 3-2 count. 

With Tyler Clippard on in relief in the sixth, the Blue Jays were back to their old tricks.  Barney singled, was bunted over to second by Goins, and then Pillar walked.  With Bautista up, it almost felt like this was the moment the Blue Jays would distance themselves against a struggling Clippard, but the righty was able to escape by striking out Bautista and then got Martin to ground out softly to third. 

After each team exchanged zeroes in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh, the Yankees mounted another rally in the bottom of the seventh.  Castro took a pitch off the plate inside that was called a strike, Joe Girardi had seen enough.  He went out to argue and was eventually ejected. But the team and the fans were fired up. After Castro struck out, Judge singled to left and Chase Headley scooped a double down the right field line to set up Chris Carter with second and third with only one out.   

With the infield in, Carter was jammed and broke his bat but was able to fight it over the head of Ryan Goins who was playing on the grass to cut down the run at the plate.  Tie game!  Didi Gregoius pinch hit for Ronald Torreyes and reached on an infield single off the glove of Blue Jays' reliever Joe Biagini. After being down 4-0 before they even took their first at bats, the Yankees had roared back to grab a 7-6 lead.  Higashioka would strike out for the second time in the game and Brett Gardner walked to load the bases for Aaron Hicks. Hicks drew another walk – his third of the game – and drove home Carter, giving the Yankees an 8-6 lead. 

With the game now seemingly in hand, Dellin Betances, who relieved Clippard with two outs in the seventh, came back out for the eighth inning and retired the Blue Jays in order.  The Yankees did not score in the bottom of the inning, and out came Aroldis Chapman to lock down his sixth save of the season, and he did just that, retiring the Jays in order.

Winning Pitcher: Dellin Betances (3-1, 0.93 ERA): 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K 

Losing PitcherJoe Biagini (0-1, 3.38 ERA): 1.2 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 ER, 5 K 

SaveAroldis Chapman (6): 1.0 IP, K

Brett Gardner: 2-3, 2 BB, R 
Aaron Hicks: 0-2, 3 BB, R, RBI 
Matt Holliday: 1-5, HR (5), 3 RBI 
Aaron Judge: 3-5, HR (13), 2 RBI, 2 R 
Chris Carter: 2-4, RBI, R 
Steve Pearce: 1-3, HR (3), 3 RBI 
Darwin Barney: 2-3, 2B, R 

Next up for the Yankees is a five game National League road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati.  On Friday afternoon the Yankees take on the Cubs at 1:05 CST.  Pitching match up is Michael Pineda vs. Kyle Hendricks. 

Article by:  Andrew Natalizio


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