It takes just one mistake to define a ballgame. Nathan Eovaldi cruised along with a shutout until the fifth inning. That was when he ran into Josh Donaldson, who tormented the Yankees throughout 2015. Tonight was more of the same, as the Yankees dropped to .500 with a series loss.
At the outset, it looked like this game might turn into a pitcher's duel. Both Eovaldi and Marcus Stroman looked sharp from the start, allowing just one hit apiece over the first three innings. Brett Gardner provided Eovaldi with an assist by making a terrific catch in foul territory that saw him tumble into the stands (fortunately, he was okay).
Stroman blinked first when he grazed Alex Rodriguez on a pitch with one out in the fourth. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. The almost-39-year-old Carlos Beltran stepped up to the plate and defied his age by beating out a potential double play ball, allowing the first run to score. Stroman then threw a wild pitch with Starlin Castro up to make it 2-0 Yankees, though he induced a grounder from the second baseman to end the threat.
The Blue Jays threatened to strike back immediately when Eovaldi issued a one-out walk to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion smoked a double. The righty showed his fortitude by getting Troy Tulowitzki to pop up to shortstop (keeping Bautista at third) and fanning Michael Saunders. Likewise, the Yankees could have tacked on another run against Stroman when Jacoby Ellsbury walked with one out and stole second base. Gardner and A-Rod couldn't bring him home however, so the measly two-run margin remained.
It is incredibly difficult to shut out an offense as good as Toronto's, and they finally got to Eovaldi in the bottom of the fifth. Russell Martin reached on a walk and with two outs, the pesky Kevin Pillar roped a double to left. Then came Donaldson. In his first two at-bats facing Eovaldi, the defending AL MVP whiffed and flew out to right. This time, he absolutely tattooed a hanging splitter that soared 445 feet:
Suddenly, the score was 3-2 in favor of Toronto and the entire tenor of the game changed.
Stroman moved into complete control after the fourth and retired 11 Yankees in a row before departing. He threw a gem, allowing only three hits and two runs over eight innings while inducing a remarkable 17 groundouts. Stroman is an incredibly talented young pitcher; these games happen.
To his credit, Eovaldi pitched longer than any other Yankees starter this year, going 6 2/3 innings. He ended up with eight strikeouts but Tulowitzki connected for a solo blast down the left field line to give the Blue Jays an insurance run. Johnny Barbato pitched an inning and a third of scoreless ball to quiet the Jays' lineup, striking out a pair of batters. He's definitely been impressive early on and just gives the Yankees another weapon out of the 'pen.
The Yankees could do nothing against closer Roberto Osuna in the ninth inning, going down in order. They didn't have a single hit after the fourth inning, which was a big reason why this game lasted only two hours and 22 minutes. So it goes.
After suffering their first series loss of the year, the Yankees head home for a three-game homestand against the Mariners. It will be Jackie Robinson Day, when everyone honors the legend by wearing number 42 (à la Mariano Rivera). They will begin tomorrow night at 7:05pm with Luis Severino taking the mound against former Rays starter Nathan Karns.