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Yankees 6, Blue Jays 12: Bullpen melts down, throws away (very) winnable game

The bullpen is bad, but at least Gary is good great?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to know what happened in tonight’s game, you have to begin with the 45-minute rain delay in the fifth inning. That’s the demarcation line around which two distinct games were played. Yes, only one game is listed on the schedule, and only one game counts in the standings, but believe me, these were two different games. Before the rain delay, the Yankees owned a 6 - 0 lead. After the action resumed, however, the Blue Jays scored 12 unanswered runs to put this one out of reach.

Let’s start the recap with the bad half of the game. The trouble began in the sixth inning, after the rain delay, when mop-up reliever Anthony Swarzak took over for Michael Pineda. Swarzak had a cushy 6 - 0 lead. In that situation, a reliever’s job is to take the excitement out of the game. Just hold the lead. Instead, he allowed four runs on four hits. That included a pair of home runs by Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki. Swarzak has struggled for most of his stint in pinstripes. Will this outing be his last appearance as a Yankee? I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

You can’t just blame Swarzak for this loss, though. The bad half of the game featured parade of ineffective relievers. It continued with Adam Warren in the eighth. Following a leadoff walk to Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion crushed a two-run home run to tie it up. Warren managed to get Michael Saunders to pop out but Martin continued to punish his former team with a two-run shot of his own that put the Blue Jays on top, 8-6. Joe Girardi took him out after that in an attempt to stop the bleeding. It looked like Warren figured things out since rejoining the Yankees, but he wasn’t fooling anyone tonight. Hopefully this was just a blip on the radar and he rebounds quickly.

Chasen Shreve took over with one out, and he crashed and burned spectacularly. He quickly loaded the bases before allowing four runs of his own. That included a bases loaded walk, too. Shreve was pretty awesome for most of last year, but that pitcher is long gone. He’s broken beyond repair. It took Blake Parker to finally end the 36-minute long half-inning.

The Yankees bats didn’t fare much better after the rain delay, either. Didi Gregorius hit an RBI single in the fifth inning off of Scott Feldman, but that was the only offense they mustered late in the game. The Blue Jays relief corp retired the final 10 Yankees batters, and eight of those were via the strikeout. It was an ugly finish for the Bombers, but I’m an optimist. There were some pretty good moments in the first half, how about we look at those?

Entering tonight’s game, Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada owned a 2.95 ERA (3.92 FIP). He has carved batters up all season long with a vicious changeup, his bread and butter pitch. Estrada already baffled the Bombers twice this year with the pitch. But prior results don’t always guarantee similar outcomes, as his change piece landed in the seats on multiple occasions.

Gregorius got the offense started in the first inning. He launched a two-out solo home run on the first pitch of the at-bat. It came off of an 84 mph pitch that stayed up in the zone. That’s his 16th on the season, which exceeds his 2014-2015 totals combined. Three batters into the game and the Yankees had a 1 - 0 lead.

In the next inning, Gary Sanchez drove a 3-2 changeup into the visitor’s bullpen. The two-out home run made it 2 - 0, Yankees. Sanchez has been a key player in the team’s youth movement, and his power potential makes for must-see TV. So, naturally, he followed up his solo shot with a monster three-run home run in the fourth.

Estrada began the inning by quickly retiring Gregorius and Mark Teixeira. He then gave up a pair of singles to Starlin Castro and Brian McCann. With two outs and two on, Sanchez stepped to the plate and unloaded on an Estrada change up. Take a look at it for your self:

That was crushed. It was the kind of home run where you knew it was gone off of the bat. It was also the kind of home run that ruins the night for the opposing starting pitcher. Estrada finished the game having allowed five runs over four innings of rain-shortened work. I’ll take that line against a pitcher of his ability any day of the week.

Also on the positive side, Michael Pineda churned out his latest in a series of quality starts. He held the (evidently) powerful Blue Jays lineup scoreless over five innings. The only time that Pineda found himself in any real trouble was in the top of the fourth. With two outs and two on, he faced former Yankee Russell Martin. We’ve seen Pineda unravel in these situations, but he induced Martin to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Pineda fell into a series of long counts and had an elevated pitch count early in the game, but he kept his composure compared to the bullpen meltdown.

Does that make you feel a little better? Me neither. But don’t feel too bad, there’s day baseball tomorrow. The Yankees can clear our palettes with a series win over the Jays in the afternoon. It will be southpaw duel, as CC Sabathia draws J.A. Happ. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm and can be seen on YES.

Box Score