By Anthony Locicero – New York Sports Examiner Reporter – @anthonylocic on Twitter
The New York Yankees entered their series with the Toronto Blue Jays with a chance to make up ground in the American League East. A sweep by the Bombers would dethrone the Blue Jays from the top of the standings. While Toronto has been the better club this season, it was swept by the Yankees June 17-19 in the Bronx.
The Jays followed that up with a 14-9 win in the opener against the Cincinnati Reds, before dropping the next two. The Yankees kept the momentum going, knocking off the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, in the opener of that series, but dropped the next two by a combined score of 14-1.
The trip to Toronto wasn’t pleasant for the Bombers, who managed to only take one from the Blue Jays – the third and final game.
GAME 1 – Monday, June 23rd
I’m willing to believe – for the time being – this was just a hiccup for Chase Whitley, who was tagged for 11 hits and eight earned runs in just 3.1 innings.
(The rookie right-hander threw five innings of five-hit, two run ball in his previous outing, which was against Toronto.)
That awful start put his club in a hole – down 7-0 after two innings – it could not climb out of. New York continued to struggle hitting with runners in scoring position, going 2-for-8 on the night.
GAME 2 – Tuesday, June 24th
This one was extremely painful to watch. It was the kind of game where you turn the TV off in frustration if you’re a Yankee fan. (“They’re gonna lose,” my fiancée, who I was watching the game with, said in the middle of the ninth after the Yankees stranded runners in the top half of the inning.)
Even first baseman Mark Teixeira said it was an “ugly game to watch.”
David Phelps regressed – he gave up eight hits and six earned runs over five innings, though he did strike out seven.
New York scored some runs from some unlikely sources – home runs by Brian Roberts (his third of the season) and Derek Jeter (his second).
So, along with an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury and a throwing error that allowed the Yankee center fielder to score, New York went from down 6-0 to tied 6-6 only to lose the game on a Jose Reyes double and a throwing error by Yangervis Solarte on a Melky Cabrera bunt.
The Yankees did pretty well against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle, who has reinvented himself this season. The Bombers touched the veteran up for eight hits and four earned runs.
GAME 3 – Wednesday, June 25th
New York snapped its four game losing streak, winning 5-3, despite going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees had just enough offense and the bullpen turned in a strong performance to seal the deal.
Hiroki Kuroda (6.1 IP, 8H, 3ER) pitched a gritty game. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees starters average less than six innings per start. So, Kuroda had to really grind, as he threw 102 pitches.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty good,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi.
Reliever Matt Thornton recorded a very important seventh inning out. The veteran came on with two outs and runners on first and second. The Jays executed a double steal with slugger Adam Lind at the plate. But Thornton got Lind to ground out to end the threat.
Girardi called on closer David Robertson, who hadn’t pitched in a week, for a five-out save, which he recorded successfully with just 22 pitches. It was Robertson’s 18th save of the season, as he struck out three and didn’t allow a hit or run.
“When I was out there, I wasn’t thinking about anything but just… let’s attack. Let’s get outs … I made enough quality pitches to get myself out of it,” he said.
Mark Teixeira is showing his power stroke, with two long balls this series. He now has 14 on the year. His three RBI upped his season total to 39. Those two homers were the only hits of the series, however. Tex has four home runs and 12 RBI in his last 13 games.
Jacoby Ellsbury (5-for-12) had two RBI this series, giving him 33 for the year.
The bullpen had a terrific series: 9.1 innings, six hits, one unearned run.
Over his last eight games, Robertson has a 0.00 ERA, has converted all six of his save chances, while allowing just three hits in 8.1 innings. He’s walked just two in that span, while fanning 15. The closer is actually striking out more batters per nine innings than strikeout machine Dellin Betances.
The Yankees are 23-12 (.657 win percentage) in games decided by two runs or less.
Hiroki Kuroda is now 5-5 with a 4.23 earned run average. He’s 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA this month.
New York is still in third place, with a 40-37 record. It sits 2.5 games out of first place and a half game out of second.
UP NEXT is a three game set with rival Boston (35-43, fourth place).