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Yankees 1, Blue Jays 5: Yanks lose first series of the season

The Yankee bats were silent until it was too late, as the sixth inning doomed New York.

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

Clarke Schmidt, who entered today’s game really struggling, probably deserved a better fate today. The righty was unhittable for five-plus innings, but after a defensive miscue, the Jays made him pay for a couple of mistakes. On a day when Yankee bats did little, that was enough to end with New York dropping its first series of the season, to the division rival Jays no less and with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. providing the crushing blow. Do not like. Never again, please.

Schmidt came out of the gate like his hair was on fire. First, he froze George Springer. Then, he induced a weak check-swing strikeout of Bo Bichette. Finally, he got renowned Yankee hater Guerrero to harmlessly fly out to Isiah Kiner-Falefa in center. Exactly the kind of first inning Schmidt needed, given his recent struggles.

Schmidt kept his momentum going in the second. Once again, he whiffed the first two batters he faced, including Daulton Varsho, an important out given that lefties have crushed Schmidt this season. Alejandro Kirk grounded harmlessly to Gleyber Torres to wrap up the second.

Clearly in a rhythm, Schmidt showed more of the same in the third. He punched out Whit Merrifield to begin the frame, and after getting Danny Jansen to harmlessly fly out, he struck out Kevin Kiermaier with a high fastball.

Three perfect innings. Six strikeouts. 39 pitches. Four cutters total, two of those to Kiermaier. Through three, Schmidt mostly avoided the pitch that opponents have hammered in the early going, and he kept the ball rolling in the fourth as well with some easy grounders and a strikeout looking. Considering his previous struggles on the second time through the order, it was highly encouraging.

Unfortunately for Schmidt, the Yankees’ bats were AWOL from the beginning in this one. Jays starter Kevin Gausman struck out the side, making Aaron Judge weakly chase out of the zone, and freezing Anthony Rizzo to finish the inning.

The Yankees went down in order again in the second. Finally, with two outs in the third, the game saw its first baserunner, after Kiner-Falefa lined a ball to right field off Gausman. He promptly followed that by stealing second, putting a runner in scoring position for Anthony Volpe. But that’s where IKF remained after Gausman got Volpe swinging, way out in front of a splitter.

New York looked no closer to solving Gausman in the fourth. After whiffing Volpe to end the third, he got Judge to squib a harmless dribbler back to the mound, froze Rizzo, and had Torres wave fecklessly to strike out. Through four frames, one total baserunner, and in a game with serious star power, it was IKF. You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.

The Blue Jays finally managed their first baserunner in the top of the fifth. Matt Chapman, with one out in the frame, laced a 109.6-mph double to right field, seemingly the first real hard contact Toronto made against Schmidt. No harm, no foul though. Schmidt navigated his first mini jam of the day to get through tit without allowing Toronto to seize a lead.

LeMahieu put the Yankees in position to score leading off the fifth. DJ lined a ball into center, Kiermaier dove and for once did not make a stunning catch, and LeMahieu, with his 32nd percentile sprint speed, managed to trot into second. Alas, his hustle paid no dividends. Oswaldo Cabrera struck out swinging on a middle-middle fastball, Oswald Peraza struck out looking on a middle-middle fastball, and Kyle Higashioka struck out looking on a splitter in the zone. It was an absolute clinic of how not to bring a leadoff double in to score.

After Volpe’s first career error put Springer on first base in the fateful sixth frame, Torres made an absolutely stellar diving play to record the force out at second. Unfortunately, Guerrero stepped to the dish and demolished a Schmidt breaking ball. His 112-mph laser to right put Toronto on the scoreboard. Varsho then ambushed Schmidt for a solo shot and in a blink, it was 3-0, Jays.

That error loomed large, as Schmidt couldn’t navigate it.

All day, Schmidt had avoided making mistakes and had retired the Jays’ lefties. But in short order, he made a couple of mistakes – and as they have all season, opposing batters didn’t miss them – and he got smoked by a lefty. It was an awful ending to what was a brilliant outing. Michael King entered the game and retired the third out, but the damage was done.

King was not at his best today, though. Back-to-back doubles in the top of the seventh off the Yankee reliever put a fourth Jays run on the board. Honestly though, considering the Yankees’ inability to do anything offensively, 3-0 already felt like a double-digit deficit.

The Yankees gave it the old college try in the bottom of the seventh. After DJLM’s second hit of the afternoon, Oswaldo hit the ball 398 feet, farther than anyone else on the day. Of course, it was to center field and Kiermaier, who was keen to prove that his miss on LeMahieu’s double was an anomaly. Harmless third out and goose egg in the run column.

With a seemingly insurmountable lead already, the Jays kept the pressure on in the ninth. With runners on first and third and one out, Yankee killer Jansen, hustling down the line, beat out what would have been an inning-double play. For his hard work, the baseball gods thus gifted him with the RBI, on the Jays’ fifth and final run of the day.

Few things irk me more than getting shut out, so at least Rizzo came through in the ninth to put the Yankees on the board. His 1,500th career hit, with the Yankees down to their final strike, landed in the right-field bleachers, driving in his 900th career run. Nice round numbers for Rizz.

Torres and LeMahieu followed with singles, the latter’s third hit of the game. But that’s where the “too little, too late” rally ended, after Cabrera fouled out to shallow left.

Whatever. It is what it is. It’s annoying that our first series loss is to Toronto, and that the dagger to the heart today came from Guerrero. Of more concern is the literally mediocre 5-5 record on the season’s longest homestand, the four runs over three games, and the now-prolonged uninspiring showing from the offense.

Now it’s off to Minnesota, to face a Twins team that has pitched well thus far in 2023. The first pitch of the opener tomorrow is at 7:40 pm ET with Jhony Brito squaring off versus former Yankee Sonny Gray. Here’s hoping Brito’s start goes better than his last one against Minnesota.

Box Score