Streaks are made to be broken
So this is what it feels like to be in a pennant race, eh? The Yankees stunned the scorching-hot Blue Jays with a 4-3 comeback victory at the Rogers Centre on Friday night, ending Toronto’s 11-game win streak and jumping back into first place in the AL East.
For a while it looked like the Yankees might never score against the Blue Jays again (they had been shut out in each of their last two matchups) and the Blue Jays might never lose again. But then the eighth inning happened, when the Yankees rallied from down 3-0 to take the lead thanks to an RBI double from Chase Headley and a three-run homer from Carlos Beltran.
With one swing of the bat, Beltran became the first Yankee pinch-hitter to hit a go-ahead homer when trailing in eighth inning or later on the road since Don Mattingly on July 24, 1994 against the Angels. Perhaps even more amazing is that it was Beltran’s first homer on a pitch of at least 97 mph since August 9, 2008, when he got Matt Lindstrom.
Andrew Miller locked down the win with his 26th save of the season … But not before he made every Yankee fan hold their breath for the entirety of the near-eight-minute final at-bat, which ended on the 12th pitch when Miller struck out Troy Tulowitzki with runners on second and third.
How clutch was Miller’s strikeout? Since 1988 (as far back as we have reliable pitch data), Miller is the only pitcher in the majors with a game-ending strikeout in an at-bat lasting at least 12 pitches and the go-ahead run on base.
Second place is for losers
The Yankees made sure that they’d leave Canada as a first-place team, beating the Blue Jays on Saturday 4-1 to take a game and a half lead heading into the series finale.
Masahiro Tanaka called it “one of the most important games” he’s ever pitched in as a Yankee and he delivered like an ace, throwing a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts. It was his fourth complete game as a Yankee — the same number that all other Yankee pitchers have combined for since his debut last season.
Before Tanaka’s gem, the last Yankee to get a complete-game victory against the Blue Jays with at least eight strikeouts and five hits or fewer allowed was Ron Guidry on September 28, 1978.
And finally, Brett Gardner ended another streak for the Yankees when he stole second base in the top of the ninth inning. That snapped a stretch of 19 games in a row without a stolen base by any Yankee, their longest drought on the basepaths since 1963.
A sweep would have been nice, but winning two of three against the team you’re fighting for the division lead isn’t bad, right?
The Yankees dropped the series finale to the Blue Jays, 3-1, despite another impressive performance by Luis Severino in his third major-league start. Severino, who allowed three runs in six innings, became the youngest Yankee pitcher with at least nine strikeouts in a game since a 20-year-old Ray Keating on May 19, 1914 versus the St. Louis Browns.
He made a couple mistakes with his off-speed pitches but otherwise dominated the powerful Toronto lineup with his dazzling fastball. The Blue Jays went 0 for 14 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending in Severino’s four-seamer.
However, the Yankees scored just one run to support him — they’ve scored just two runs in the 17 innings he’s been on the mound — and he once again failed to get his first career win. In the last 100 years, Severino and Dave Righetti (1979) are only Yankees with at least five innings pitched and no wins in each of their first three career games.
The Blue Jays have now held the Yankees to one run or fewer in seven of their 12 matchups in 2015. The only other teams in the Divisional Era (since 1969) to allow no more than one run in at least seven games against the Yankees in a season were the 1990 Athletics — who went 12-0 against the Yankees that year! — and the 1973 Red Sox. And the Yankees still seven more games to play against our neighbors north of the border …