Blue Jays show important resilience by rallying to dramatic win over Yankees

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a grand slam and Teoscar Hernandez smashed a three-run shot the next inning as the Toronto Blue Jays came back from 5 runs down to defeat the New York Yankees 10-9, to avoid a series sweep.

TORONTO — Back at the start of May, when the Toronto Blue Jays lost two of three at home to the New York Yankees and then twice more during a quickie visit to the Bronx, they could point to an out-of-sync batting order and reasonably think that things will be different next time.

Well, they didn’t deliver the type of dramatic counterpunch they might have envisioned then, but did show an important and fortifying resilience in rallying from five runs down Sunday for a tension-filled 10-9 victory that averted a three-game sweep.

The Blue Jays offence had come around since the clashes last month but was mostly AWOL during a weekend of frustration, managing only three runs on 10 hits in the first two games before busting out in the finale. Yusei Kikuchi left behind a 3-2 deficit, Adam Cimber and Max Castillo, in his big-league debut, let it get to 8-3 and a deflating end loomed.

But Luis Severino, dominant through five, came out of the game after a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. single and Alejandro Kirk walk to open the sixth. The Blue Jays loaded the bases against Miguel Castro and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made it a one-run game with his fifth career grand slam.

After Yimi Garcia put up a zero in the seventh — jawing with Gleyber Torres after getting him swinging to end the frame — Bo Bichette beat out an infield single, and after a Guerrero fielder’s choice and Kirk walk, Teoscar Hernandez timed up a Peralta changeup and sent it out to left-centre field, triggering bedlam among the crowd of 44,395.

“Against the Yankees everything is going to be like that,” Hernandez said of the emotions that had him pounding his chest all the way up the first-base line. “Everybody knows the team that they have and the run that they're in right now. They're a pretty good team. That's why they're in the first place. And we know if we play good against them and beat them, we're in a good spot.”

The drama didn’t end there as pinch-hitter Anthony Rizzo homered off Tim Mayza with one out in the eighth, and the next two Yankees reached, too, prompting manager Charlie Montoyo to bring in closer Jordan Romano into the eighth for the first time this season.

Romano promptly got DJ LeMahieu to fly out before blowing away Aaron Judge with a 98 mph fastball atop the zone to end the eighth, and then worked around a walk and a single to shut the door in an anxious ninth.

“The biggest thing for me is in-between innings,” said Romano. "Come in, pretty big spot there, get the two outs and always remind myself, the job's not finished. Like I was saying to myself, 'You haven't done anything yet,' you know what I mean? The sit-down, mentally is a little bit hard. You've got to remind yourself you're going back out there.”

Romano’s usage underlined the desperate nature of this game for the Blue Jays, who ended a nine-game win streak for the juggernaut Yankees, who at 49-17, are off to the fourth-best start through 66 games in major-league history.

The Blue Jays, who at 38-28 own the third-best record in the American League, improved to 4-8 against the Yankees and that mark is a key reason why they’re just 17-20 against teams .500 or better.

The Yankees, on the other hand, are 20-8 versus teams .500 or better. They’re now 36-3 when leading after six innings, highlighting how unlikely a loss this was.

“They have good pitching and that's a fact, but then we took care of the bullpen today,” said Montoyo. “You've got to give them credit, that's one of the reasons they're doing well, because they have a good starting rotation. But we didn't quit today. We were down and kept fighting back. I've seen it so many times that people say, ‘OK. They're having a good series. Let's move on.' We didn't move on. Credit to everybody.”

That, in part, explains why there was plenty of emotion on display well before Garcia and Torres got into it. In the first, Josh Donaldson whipped his bat into the ground after getting hit by Kikuchi and later flipped his bat on a two-run homer in the third. Hernandez, in turn, wore a ferocious look as he beat his chest as the ball sailed over the wall.

Garcia’s stop in the seventh was pivotal, almost drawing a line in the sand against the Yankees after the Blue Jays had crept within one, which prompted the right-hander’s stare-down of Torres.

“That's part of the game,” Garcia said through interpreter Hector Lebron, adding the two didn’t have any past history. “In those situations, your adrenaline is high so you see emotions. … When you face a team like that, the way the Yankees are playing right now, that's our mentality, come into the game and trying to stop it, somehow.”

Kirk, meanwhile, was particularly cautious behind the plate with men on base, setting up his glove in one spot but quickly moving it elsewhere in case signs were being relayed. He also did Kikuchi a pair of solids by picking Donaldson off at first to end the first and throwing out Aaron Hicks trying to steal to end the second, while blocking skillfully in the ninth when Giancarlo Stanton reached third on Hicks’ two-out single.

As Matt Chapman eased off the shift and scrambled back toward third to ensure Rizzo didn’t try to drop one down the line, Romano made sure to carefully guard every move.

“Definitely,” he said. “These guys are pretty big at second base. They're always looking, they're always trying to pick signs, and credit to them, that's part of the game. They're pretty good at it so we're always coming up with our plans on how to combat that.”

The same applies to the Yankees as a whole after a weekend in which the Blue Jays didn’t claw back any lost ground, but showed the fortitude necessary for a better outcome in August, when the clubs next meet.

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