Bautista’s late heroics lift Blue Jays to win over Yankees

Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-0 Saturday.

TORONTO — Jose Bautista, who has made a career out of timely hits, provided offence on cue Saturday with a late homer to help the Toronto Blue Jays stay on course in their bid for the playoffs.

Bautista hammered an eighth-inning home run and Toronto pitchers stymied the Yankees for the second day in a row as the Blue Jays blanked New York 3-0 before a Rogers Centre sellout of 47,828 with the roof open on a pleasant fall late afternoon.

After a seven-inning pitching duel between Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and New York’s C.C. Sabathia, Josh Donaldson ripped a two-out single to left field off Tyler Clippard (3-5) and moved to second on a wild pitch. After Edwin Encarnacion walked, Bautista drove a ball over the left-field fence for his 20th homer of the season.

"It looks like he’s heating up at the right time," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "Jose’s been known to do some things at key spots. I was sitting there on the bench with DeMarlo (bench coach DeMarlo Hale) and I mentioned that to him. Right guy, right time basically."

Fourteen of Bautista’s 20 homers this season have been go-ahead shots. Saturday’s blast was also the 16th of his career that has given his team the lead from the eighth inning on. Fourteen of those have been for the Jays, putting him second in the club record book behind George Bell (16).

It also marked the seventh straight season he has hit at least 20 homers.

"I think it’s pretty obvious how big he is for us," said Stroman. "I mean obviously last year and obviously this year it seems like he always steps up in those key moments when we need him most. Even if he’s struggling at the time, if we need him in a big situation it always seems like he comes through.

"So he’s the guy, man. He’s been the guy here for a long time and we count on him to be big in those spots."

Toronto now has six players with 20-plus homers in a season for the first time since 2010.

It was the fourth win in five games and sixth in nine for Toronto (85-69), improving the Jays’ September record to 9-12.

The Yankees (79-75) were shut out for the third game in row — which last happened in July 1975 — in dropping their 10th game in their last 13. New York has been blanked in five of 12 road games this month.

The Yankees have now lost seven straight in the Rogers Centre, where they have been blanked three games in a row.

"It’s hard to explain," New York manager Joe Girardi said of the offensive drought. "We didn’t have too many opportunities today. Stroman kept us in check. We just weren’t able to get anything going off him."

Kansas City did Toronto a favour earlier Saturday in the wild-card race, rallying for five runs in the ninth to defeat Detroit 7-4. Baltimore, another wild card contender, beat Arizona 6-1 Saturday night to pull a half-game ahead of the Tigers for the AL’s second wild card. The Orioles trail the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games for the top spot.

Boston maintained a 5.5-game lead over Toronto in the AL East after getting past Tampa Bay 6-4 for its 10th consecutive win. The Red Sox also clinched a playoff berth while ensuring no worse than the AL’s second wild card.

Helped by two double plays and a runner caught stealing by Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro, Stroman faced just one over the minimum 21 batters in his seven innings. The Yankees managed just three baserunners during that stretch: on three walks and a single.

Stroman limited the Yankees to one hit with three walks and five strikeouts in a smooth 97-pitch performance featuring 59 strikes.

"That’s as good as I’ve ever seen him," said Gibbons, who nevertheless thought seven innings was enough.

Stroman tried unsuccessfully to talk Gibbons into letting him continue but Jason Grilli was called in.

The veteran got the first two outs in the eighth before Yankees third baseman Ronald Torreyes slammed a two-out triple to right field. Grilli (7-5) snuffed out the threat, striking out pinch-hitter Billy Butler with a 94 mile-per-hour fastball after a seven-pitch at bat that had the crowd on its feet chanting "Let’s Go Blue Jays."

Roberto Osuna, who is 9-for-9 in save opportunities against the Yankees over his career, pitched the ninth for his 35th save of the season. Toronto outhit New York 6-3.

Sabathia limited Toronto hitters to four hits over seven innings with three walks and two strikeouts. The Jays helped by hitting into double plays in both the first and second innings.

Bautista’s second-inning double extended his season-high on-base streak to 31 games. Encarnacion’s fourth-inning single was his 153rd hit of the season, a career high. He has already set career highs this season for RBIs and runs scored.

Both are in the last year of their contracts.

Bautista offered no reason for his recent run of form other to say "it’s baseball." He did acknowledge he was feeling better physically.

Saturday’s starters came in looking for a change in fortunes.

Stroman had lost his last four starts despite allowing three earned runs or fewer in each. A 25-year-old native of Medford, N.Y., Stroman was 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA in his seven previous career starts against the Yankees.

Sabathia, who took the mound mired in a five-game winless streak, used to have the Blue Jays’ number. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he beat Toronto in 11 straight seasons from 2004-14, the longest such streak against the Jays. But the 36-year-old came into Saturday’s game having lost his last five starts against Toronto.

He had a 15-9 career mark with a 3.45 ERA against Toronto.

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