Blue Jays allow four runs in ninth inning as Yankees spoil Toronto’s sweep

Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Soto both hit solo home runs while Aaron Judge tallied a two-RBI single with the game tied in the 9th inning to help the New York Yankees rally to a 6-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays and avoid the series sweep.

TORONTO – This was a game the Toronto Blue Jays should have won.

Granted, the Yankees are a formidable team, and sweeps are hard at this level. But if your ace rebounds, your left fielder hits two home runs and you take a lead into the ninth inning, that’s a game you should win.

Instead, a late Yankees rally erased a Blue Jays lead and prevented what would have been the first Toronto sweep of the season. On a day three of the Blue Jays’ top relievers were unavailable, Genesis Cabrera, Erik Swanson and Tim Mayza each gave up big hits on the way to a 6-4 Yankees win.

“Today, it’s a sour taste,” manager John Schneider said. “You have a sweep (available) there against a really good team and we didn’t get it done.”

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Yimi Garcia had worked the first two games of the series, making him unavailable, and the Blue Jays are being careful with closer Jordan Romano, who made his season debut Tuesday night. Plus, Schneider revealed after the game that Chad Green was unavailable because of shoulder soreness he felt after throwing 17 pitches Monday . 

With those three relievers unavailable, the Blue Jays had Cabrera on the mound in the eighth inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Juan Soto. Then in the ninth, with the Blue Jays still up two, Swanson made his season debut and allowed a loud home run to Giancarlo Stanton before allowing hits to Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo. 

It was at that point that the Blue Jays turned to Mayza, who allowed a pinch-hit single to Jose Trevino to tie the game then a two-run single by Aaron Judge to give New York the lead. At no point did Romano, Garcia or Green warm up, but the Blue Jays expect all three to be available Friday.

As a result, the Blue Jays wasted a strong effort from starter Kevin Gausman and a two-home run game from Daulton Varsho.

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The first of the homers came against longtime Blue Jay Marcus Stroman but the second was more notable, as it came against Caleb Ferguson, a left-handed pitcher – a first for the left-handed hitting Varsho in a Blue Jays uniform.

“He’s worked really hard to get where he is,” Schneider said. “He’s getting good swings off …  he’s got a lot of potential, and we’re seeing that right now. He hits the ball really hard. His at-bats have been great and we’re excited for him.”

Ferguson left a first-pitch fastball up, and Varsho sent it 392 feet.

“There’s a lot of things that go into that pitch selection,” Varsho said. “But being able to trust what you’re doing at the plate and being able to execute is the biggest part.”

This version of Varsho looks like an all-star calibre player, and the production comes at an opportune time. As a team, the Blue Jays struggled to find their power stroke, with zero homers in the first two games against New York on just 12 total hits. But afterwards, the Blue Jays pointed to their ability to grind out tough at-bats as a positive from their first homestand of the year.

“If we can wear pitchers out and get to that bullpen early in the series, that’s a really big key for every team that plays well,” Varsho said.

Crediting George Springer in particular, Gausman echoed Varsho’s sentiment.

“Yesterday was the best I’ve seen our offence from one through nine since I’ve been here. I mean, it was incredible the amount of pitches those guys saw,” Gausman said. “That was great to see.”

Going into the game, the matchup of Stroman and Gausman was an intriguing one, and it didn’t disappoint on the day Gausman reached 10 years of major-league service time.

After faltering against the Rockies in his previous start, Gausman rebounded with five innings of one-run ball Wednesday. His velocity was up, with an average fastball of 94.8 m.p.h. and a max velocity of 97.9 m.p.h. as well as harder splitters and sliders.

An extended first inning ate into his pitch count, but the only real damage he allowed Wednesday was a Soto RBI double. All told, the right-hander allowed four hits and three walks while striking out six — a significant step forward.

Plus, consider this when assessing Gausman’s outing: not only do the Yankees have MVP-calibre hitters like Soto and Judge, they’re also among the best in MLB at game planning. Put simply, not all teams are good at helping their pitchers keep hitters off-balance, or helping their hitters anticipate what’s likely coming. The Yankees are elite at it.

That was certainly the case Wednesday, when New York’s hitters overmatched Blue Jays pitchers when it counted most. The Blue Jays did conclude their first homestand of the season with three series wins and a 6-3 record in Toronto, but they missed a chance for more against one of their biggest rivals.

“Still a really good homestand,” Schneider said. “I thought we played extremely well and it was nice to be home in front of our fans. I wish it had gone a little bit differently today, but the guys are battling.”

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