David Phelps took on Drew Hutchison and the electric Toronto lineup tonight in the Bronx with a chance to sweep the Blue Jays and close to within a game and a half of the AL East lead. Like Chase Whitley last night, Phelps managed to stymie Toronto's big bats, turning in a terrific performance that allowed the Yankees to win three out of three against the Blue Jays and take a big chunk out of their division lead.
Phelps built on the success he had in Oakland last week - after giving up 13 runs in his first two starts of June, he threw six and two thirds scoreless innings against the A's in his last start and only gave up two runs over seven innings tonight. He made only one real mistake against the Jays, managing to strike out seven while giving up only six hits and allowing the bullpen some much needed rest. With a little help from Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees and Phelps finished off this series on a high note (although it sure took forever).
Phelps' night didn't start out ideally, though. He gave up a one out single in the first to Melky Cabrera, then walked slugger Jose Bautista. With two on and one out, the Jays seemed primed to strike, but then Cabrera took a bit too large of a lead off second and Phelps fired the ball to Brian Roberts in an attempt to pick him off. While initially called safe, a challenge from Joe Girardi saw the call overturned and Cabrera was sent to the dugout. On the very next pitch, Phelps struck out Edwin Encarnacion to escape what could've been a rough start to the game.
The Yankees got on the board almost immediately. In the bottom of the first, Gardner smacked a leadoff double to right and then moved to third when Derek Jeter reached on an infield hit. Gardner then tagged and scored when Ellsbury lined out to left, and the Yankees had the lead. The Yankees tacked on another in the second after Carlos Beltran scored on a Kelly Johnson sacrifice fly.
Phelps started off the third well, getting two quick outs, but then gave up a line drive single to Jose Reyes. With Cabrera at the plate, Phelps made his only real mistake of the night, giving up a two-run homer that Cabrera hit sky-high over the fence in right. This tied the game up at two, but the tie would not last long, as the Yankees retook the lead in the third when Beltran hit a sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury.
The Blue Jays had baserunners in each of the next three innings, but they could never manage to take advantage and cut into the Yankee lead; a lead which seemed to grow frame by frame: the Yankees added a run in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.
Shawn Kelley took over in the eighth and, after walking Bautista, left a fastball up and in to Encarnacion who took it out of the park to left for his 21st homer of the year. While this added an extra bit of tension I'm sure we all could've done without, Kelley did manage to get Dioner Navarro to ground out before Matt Thornton finished off the inning. Thornton came back in the ninth to get the first out before Adam Warren took the hill to finish off the game, getting Jose Reyes to ground out to end the game.
There was one very strange moment in this game in the fourth inning. When Navarro popped up to first, Encarnacion made contact with Teixeira as Tex moved into the base path to catch the ball. While it was clearly an accident (and didn't impede Tex from catching the ball), the first base umpire called Encarnacion out for interference and initially ruled it a double play. After a lengthy conversation, the umpires decided Encarnacion was out for interference and awarded Navarro first on a fielder's choice. It was all very strange, and it seemed that the umpires were about as confused as the viewers were.
The Yankees obviously had a great start to the week, and hopefully they can carry some momentum into their weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx. Tomorrow's starters are Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez has not been great this year (2-8, 4.86 ERA in 2014), so the Yankees should have a good shot at winning their fourth straight game.