Blue Jays avoid sweep vs. Yankees, trim AL East deficit

Jose Bautista hit his 28th home run of the season and Drew Hutchison shut down New York as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Yankees.

TORONTO — With such a thin line between being on the New York Yankees’ heels and getting swept at home, the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t hesitate and handed the ball to their fifth starter with the 5.26 earned-run average.

Drew Hutchison took it, threw a gem and helped the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-1 Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre to move to a half-game back in the American League East. A defiant Hutchison silenced the doubters and delivered a crucial victory in the tight race for the division title.

"He responded," manager John Gibbons said. "He’s still a young guy, but he’s mentally tough, I do know that."

Hutchison allowed just three hits and one run on a solo home run by Jacoby Ellsbury in 6 2/3 innings to post his 12th win of the season. The much-maligned right-hander struck out five as the Yankees ran out arguably their strongest possible lineup looking for the sweep.

As talk swirled about the Blue Jays skipping one of Hutchison’s starts, he turned in his second straight strong outing.

"When it comes to things that are out of my control, I don’t really pay any attention to that," Hutchison said. "Whenever I’m given the ball I’m going to go out there and try to give an effort like I did today and help our team win."

This showdown in the middle of August felt like more than just one of 162 games. The Blue Jays were trying to avoid being swept at home for the first time this season, a result that would have dropped them 2 1/2 back in the AL East.

Instead, it’s an even tighter race in part because of a ball Carlos Beltran lost in the sun.

"I lost it when it was getting close to me, and I basically couldn’t do anything," Beltran said of Troy Tulowitzki’s fly ball in the third inning. "The ball hit me in the back. Unfortunately, it would have been a different story if I had caught that ball."

Toronto made the most of its break, with Tulowitzki on second and extra chances to score runs. An RBI double by Josh Donaldson got the Blue Jays on the board, and a two-run shot by Jose Bautista broke open an inning that could’ve been over.

Bautista nailed a hanging slider from Yankees rookie Luis Severino over the fence in left-centre for his 28th home run of the season.

"I got a pretty good look at it, and it was an even count, so I was taking an aggressive hack," Bautista said. "He put it in a good spot for me, and I was able to hit it hard."

The 21-year-old Severino kept the Blue Jays from doing any more damage by striking out a career-high nine in his third major-league start.

"I thought he pitched extremely well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He has risen to the occasion."

Hutchison also rose to the occasion, helping the Blue Jays make some more history of their own. He made it the 20th straight game that the starting pitcher allowed three or fewer earned runs, extending a franchise-record set Saturday.

"I think it speaks volumes about the adjustments (starting pitchers have) been able to make, their talent level and what they can do when they’re going well," Bautista said. "Hopefully they can sustain this success and continue to ride that wave because if they do that it’s going to be fun last month and a half."

In the last month and a half, the Blue Jays (65-54) and Yankees (64-52) face each other seven more times. The race is on.

"It’s going to be a battle the rest of the way out," Hutchison said. "It’s going to be a fight. We just need to go out there, play the way we know we can play and do what we’re capable of doing."

Notes — The sellout crowd of 46,792 was the Blue Jays’ fifth straight home crowd over 40,000, the first time they’ve done that since 1995. … Robert Osuna picked up his 13th save of the season. … With an eighth-inning single, Edwin Encarnacion extended his hitting streak to 14 games, which matches a career high. … The Blue Jays have Monday off before travelling to Philadelphia for a two-game series against the Phillies beginning Tuesday. … LHP Aaron Loup was optioned to triple-A Buffalo after the game. A corresponding roster move is expected to be announced on Monday. … The 1985 team that won the franchise’s first division title was honoured before the game, and the first 20,000 fans received a bobblehead featuring outfielders George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield.

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