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Yankees 7, Blue Jays 6: Brett Gardner saves the game with a leaping catch in the ninth

The Yankees needed every bit of offense to survive last push by Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees looked like they might come away with a decently easy victory on Tuesday after scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth. It wasn’t to be, however. A worn out Dellin Betances wasn’t very effective and needed to be replaced mid-inning, and the Blue Jays very nearly clawed all the way back to tie the game.

Toronto got on the board first via an Edwin Encarnacion solo home run in the top of the first inning. The Yankees tied the score with a solo shot of their own off the bat of Brian McCann in the fourth, though the tie would not last long. The game went back and forth with Kevin Pillar scoring on a Jose Bautista single, Tyler Austin hitting a two-run Birthday Bomb into the bleachers, and Pillar doubling home Dalton Pompey and Melvin Upton Jr.

In the middle of the eighth, the Blue Jays were winning by one run. Didi Gregorius snapped out of his slump with a triple that brought home Jacoby Ellsbury to tie the score once more. A sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro put the Yankees on top by plating Gregorius, and a Chase Headley two-run homer capped off the scoring in the inning.

Then the ninth inning happened.

Betances entered the game, despite his workload over the last few days. He walked the first two batters he saw in Bautista and Josh Donaldson, then threw a wild pitch to advance both runners into scoring position. Encarnacion reached on an infield single that allowed Bautista to score all with no outs. Betances was able to get Russell Martin looking for out number one, but he walked Dioner Navarro to load the bases.

Upton Jr. reached on an infield single that Betances narrowly missed the first base bag on while covering and Donaldson scored. Joe Girardi pulled Betances in favor of Blake Parker with just one out in the inning and the Yankees’ lead down to one run.

Parker was able to strike out Pillar looking for the second out with Justin Smoak due up. Smoak lined a ball to left field that carried all the way to the wall. Brett Gardner gave it a leap and managed to snow cone the ball in his glove for the final out. Exhale.

All of the excitement in the latter innings made it easy to forget that Luis Cessa turned in another good performance against a very strong offense. He lasted just 5.1 innings and gave up two runs, but you’ll take that nearly every time against a division leader like the Blue Jays. Adam Warren and Tommy Layne were responsible for one run each during the middle innings, and a resurgent Chasen Shreve stole the win after getting only one out.

With the win, the Yankees claim the series against the AL East-leading Blue Jays. New York still sits 3.5 back of the Wild Card with the Orioles and Astros both winning earlier tonight. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Yankees are only 4.5 games back of the division. The unfortunate thing about where the Yankees find themselves so late in the season is that they not only need to win, but they need teams ahead of them to lose to make up ground. It’s an unlikely but not impossible hill to climb with their odds of making the postseason hovering around 4%.

The Yankees will get a chance to sweep the Blue Jays ahead of an important four-game series against the Rays over the weekend tomorrow evening with Marcus Stroman going up against spot starter Bryan Mitchell.