TORONTO – Austin Wells smashed a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 on Tuesday.
Wells scored Gleyber Torres with the late blast as New York (80-77) played spoiler to Toronto’s hopes of clinching a playoff spot.
Michael King struck out five but issued five walks in six innings of one-hit baseball. Jhony Brito (9-7) and Clay Holmes came out of the Yankees’ bullpen.
Kevin Gausman pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks but striking out five for the Blue Jays (87-70). Relievers Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano (5-7) of Markham, Ont., followed Gausman to the mound.
Toronto holds a one-game lead over the Houston Astros for the American League’s second wild-card spot.
The Seattle Mariners sat 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the third and final wild-card berth heading into play Tuesday. Seattle hosted the Astros later that night.
Although the Yankees were already mathematically eliminated from the post-season, manager Aaron Boone promised that his team would still put in maximum effort in Toronto.
“We want to win. We respect the season,” said Boone in the visitors’ dugout before the game. “Obviously, the Blue Jays are right there in the playoffs but we want to put our best foot forward and be as competitive as possible and hopefully get out of here with three wins.”
Toronto had an opportunity to break the game open in the third inning.
Kevin Kiermaier reached on a fielder’s choice then George Springer and Bo Bichette drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. That brought Vladimir Guerrero Jr., to the plate with the bases loaded and two out.
Guerrero worked King to a full count but then watched a 94.7 m.p.h. sinker go by low and away for a called third strike from home-plate umpire Malachi Moore.
Gausman stayed effective when the Blue Jays were on defence, striking out Austin Wells and Giancarlo Stanton before inducing a lineout from Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the next inning.
Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette’s sharp fielding prevented the Yankees from scoring the game’s first run in the seventh.
He fired Oswaldo Cabrera’s ground ball to catcher Alejandro Kirk in time for Giancarlo Stanton to be tagged for the inning’s second out.
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Wells broke the scoreless tie in the ninth.
Torres singled off of Romano to lead off the inning to bring Wells to the plate with no outs. Wells took a 95.9 m.p.h. four-seam fastball — the first pitch he’d seen from the Blue Jays’ closer — 367 feet into Toronto’s bullpen for his third home run of the season and the game’s only score.
JUDGED — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was not in the starting lineup against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Judge was sidelined for 42 games after tearing a ligament in his right big toe on June 3 but resumed playing in late July.
“I kind of wanted to get him a day at some point,” Boone said.
BELT’S BACK — Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt was reinstated from the 10-day injured list before the game. He batted sixth in Tuesday’s game. Belt was out with lumbar spine muscle spasms.
ON DECK — José Berríos (11-11) gets the start for Toronto in the second game of the series.
Ace Gerrit Cole (14-4) will take the mound for the Yankees.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
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