The calendar says it's only August 14th, but this game felt like late September. New York was swept the last time these two teams met, dropping out of first place for the first time in the mean time. The Blue Jays had rattled off an 11-game win streak entering tonight, and looking like they'd extend that streak for most of the game. Carlos Beltran had other plans.
Ivan Nova had a rough third inning, giving up all three Blue Jays runs. It wasn't the long ball that hurt him, but the menacing trio of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Troy Tulowitzki all managed to drive in a run that put the Yankees in a fairly deep hole with David Price pitching. Nova held the score there until he was relieved after seven innings, allowing five hits in that time. Price allowed Yankees batters to record 11 hits in his 7.1 innings of work, but expertly scattered them around to keep New York off the board until the eighth inning.
The Yankees were finally able to break through in the eighth inning when Mark Teixeira singled with one out. Brian McCann followed with a single of his own before Chase Headley stepped to the plate and ripped a ball to center field that just hopped over the wall. Teixeira scored but McCann was held at third on the ground rule double. Would the slow McCann have scored if the ball had stayed in the park? We'll never know. What happened next was amazing, and ultimately rendered those questions moot. Carlos Beltran pinch hit for Chris Young and rifled a 97 mph offering from Aaron Sanchez to right field that cleared the wall for a three-run home run to put the Yankees ahead for the first time. I cannot confirm or deny whether there were singing angels heard in that moment, but there might have been.
With the lead in hand, the Yankees were able to turn the game over to their dynamic bullpen duo with Dellin Betances coming in to work the eighth inning. He struck out Bautista and got Encarnacion and Justin Smoak to fly out for a clean inning. Andrew Miller, as usual, was tasked with securing the save. In true Miller fashion as of late, he did not make it easy. Russell Martin flied out for the first out of the inning before Chris Colabello battled long enough to work a walk. Kevin Pillar singled to tighten everyone's collar a little more, and a wild pitch drove the anxiety up several levels higher. Miller was able to bear down and strike Ben Revere out swinging before having to deal with the dangerous Tulowitzki with the winning run already in scoring position. This battle felt like one in a Game 6 situation. Miller and Tulowitzki both refused to give in, pitch after pitch. Miller ultimately came out on top in the 12-pitch duel, getting Tulowitzki to strike out to end the game.
It was as tense a game as I can remember in August, but the Yankees find themselves back in first place once again. Beating a team that has had their number all season had to have felt good. They'll get another crack at it tomorrow when Masahiro Tanaka faces Marco Estrada at 1:07 pm. Maybe all of our blood pressures will return to normal by then.