Monday’s showdown at the Rogers Centre had the chance to be a historic one for the Yankees. There was a distinct possibility that Aaron Judge could tie or surpass Roger Maris on the same night that the Yankees clinched their 20th AL East title. It wasn’t to be though, as neither event transpired. Judge was kept in the ballpark and thanks to a walk-off hit from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays beat New York in the 10th inning, 3-2. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Yankees.
Although Aaron Boone’s ballclub faced a tough competitor in Kevin Gausman, they were able to put a run on the board in very short order. Leading off the game, Judge didn’t hit No. 61, but he did lace a 112.9-mph single to right, which Anthony Rizzo followed up with a double down the first-base line. Judge moved to third, and he trotted home on a Gleyber Torres sacrifice fly. Gausman regained control by inducing a shallow fly from Josh Donaldson and striking out Giancarlo Stanton, but Luis Severino had a 1-0 lead at the outset.
With all due respect to the Pirates (read: not much), Monday night offered Severino’s first real test since coming off the 60-day IL. The Blue Jays have a notoriously dangerous lineup, and Sevy would have to pitch on the road, as well. But he looked sharp from the get-go, striking out George Springer with a sick slider. Severino tossed a perfect first, and then worked around walks in the second and third to keep Toronto hitless.
As Sevy quieted the Blue Jays, the Yankees added another run against Gausman with the aid of an unlikely source. Isiah Kiner-Falefa entered play on Monday with the second-lowest isolated power (ISO) among all qualified MLB hitters at .063, and he’d gone deep just three times in 2022. And yet, facing one of the best pitchers in baseball, IKF did precisely that, launching a Gausman offering 404 feet.
Among 387 batted-ball events for IKF on the season, this was the first that went over 390 feet, let alone 400. Amusing measurements aside, the dinger made the score 2-0, New York.
In the fourth, the Blue Jays got those two runs back with an assist from Kiner-Falefa, and it could’ve easily been more. Bo Bichette began the inning with Toronto’s first hit, a clean single to right. Guerrero then rolled one to shortstop for what seemed like an easy double play. But as he’s done far too often this year, IKF bobbled it, and after double-clutching, he couldn’t even get the slow-footed Vladito at first base. Betrayed by his defense, Severino caused problems for himself by walking Alejandro Kirk to load the bases with no one out.
Sevy induced a shallow fly ball from Matt Chapman, but the right-hander’s 11th consecutive fastball caught too much of the zone with Teoscar Hernández up.
Although the 408-foot drive would’ve been a grand slam in 17 ballparks, it bounced off the top of the center-field wall. It was still a two-run double to tie the game, though if IKF and Gleyber Torres had handled the relay in a smarter fashion, they could’ve thrown the previously-posing Hernández at second. Thankfully, that point was rendered moot when Severino escaped the inning on a Raimel Tapia popup and a Danny Jansen strikeout.
That was the end of the road for Severino, who was already at 76 pitches in 4 innings, up from only 67 in his first post-IL appearance against Pittsburgh. The Yankees have another Sevy start lined up before the end of the season, and then he should ready to start Game 2 or Game 3 in a potential Division Series. His final line on Monday night: four innings, two runs, three hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. The free passes and bad location on the Hernández near-slam were concerning, but on the whole, it was a fine outing.
Gausman shook off both the beginning of the ballgame and the Kiner-Falefa homer to give the Yankees fits for most of the night. In fact, IKF’s blast was New York’s only hit between the second and the fifth. They did get a rally going in the sixth, when Rizzo and Torres knocked back-to-back singles to put a runner in scoring position. Alas, Gausman retired Donaldson and Stanton again, fanning both of the former MVPs. The Cy Young contender eventually departed in the seventh with 6.1 innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts to his name, topping the 200-K threshold for the second-straight year.
Trade deadline additions Lou Trivino and Scott Effross each allowed hits during their innings on the job, but that was all the Blue Jays could muster. They didn’t get a real rally going again until the bottom of the seventh, when a tricky hopper up the middle from Jansen ticked off Torres’ glove for a single. Whit Merrifield then hit one to the left side that IKF had to range for, and while he did well to reach the grounder, it took him an extra moment to get a good grip for a throw to second. Although the initial call on Jansen was out, it was justifiably overturned, and Boone brought in Jonathan Loáisiga.
There’s no denying that Loáisiga is going to have get important outs in October as one of the most trusted members of the bullpen, and aside from a shaky outing here and there, he’s successfully rebounded in the second half. The righty reliever kept it going by striking out the longtime Yankee killer Springer and getting the red-hot Bichette on a comebacker before spinning a scoreless eighth as well. Loáisiga’s ERA since mid-July sits at 1.86 in 29 innings.
Jordan Romano and Clay Holmes each turned the side away in order in the ninth, so this game went to extra innings. Anthony Bass sandwiched strikeouts of Harrison Bader and Jose Trevino around a walk to IKF, and with Judge due up, Toronto skipper John Schneider elected to bring in southpaw Tim Mayza. Despite the only free base being third, Schneider intentionally walked Judge to have Mayza face the lefty Rizzo. The unconventional strategy worked, as Rizzo grounded out to leave the bags packed.
Clarke Schmidt had the tall order of holding down Springer, Bichette, and Guerrero in the bottom of the 10th with the zombie runner Cavan Biggio at second, merely waiting for one of the big guns to drive him in. Schmidt fanned Springer and was the benefactor of a nice play in right field by Judge. But Guerrero did not let the Yankees off the hook for stranding their runners, and he laced a walk-off single to left, ending the ballgame.
Should Boone have simply walked Guerrero to face Kirk? Remember that the All-Star catcher is no schmuck and has essentially identical offensive productive to Guerrero in 2022 (134 wRC+ to Vladito’s 132). Although I would trust the track record that Guerrero is the more pressing threat, Schmidt vs. Kirk doesn’t fill me with a ton of confidence either. Again: The wiser move is probably to still walk Guerrero. Oh well.
Regardless, the Yankees had plenty of scoring chances go by the wayside while also making some fielding miscues as the Blue Jays pitched their hearts out behind Gausman to beat them in extras. They’re still a win away from clinching the AL East, so for my sanity, I’m taking the longview on this one and shaking off their first loss in over a week. Win tomorrow and render it moot.
The second entry in this three-game set at Rogers Centre will begin tomorrow at the same time, 7:07pm ET. Jameson Taillon is set to go toe-to-toe with José Berríos.