The Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon meaning that they were swept in the three-game series by the Blue Jays. The Yankees have now gone 26 innings without scoring a run, which is not a a recipe for success.
“We definitely took a punch this weekend, and good teams punch back,” Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said. “For us, it’s all about how we respond that matters.”
They now only have a 1.5 game lead over Toronto in the AL East after the Blue Jays scored nine runs in the series and the Yankees only scored one. Since Troy Tulowitzki was acquired by Toronto on July 28, the Blue Jays have won 11 of their last 12 games, and based on adding Tulowitzki and David Price are a much greater challenge in the division than they were before.
Toronto’s starting pitching, which has been better recently, really kept the Yankees previously powerful offense in check during the series. Knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey allowed one run in seven innings on Friday, Price threw a shutout in seven innings on Saturday and Marco Estrada did not allow a Yankee to score in his 6.1 innings pitched in the series finale.
The last time that the Yankees were shutout in back-to-back games was 16 years ago. The last time this happened was May 12 and 13 of 1999, which is a Major League record of 2,665 games. Mo Vaughn, who played from 1991 until 2003, hit a home run in the second game off of Hideki Irabu.
The Yankees were 0-5 with runners in scoring position and the only hits that the Yankees had in the game were singles by Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius off of Estrada. The offense, which scored 90 runs in 10 games from July 25 to August 4 (and has scored 4 runs while losing four of the last five games), has been hurt recently by facing two knuckleball pitchers in the last five games and by the struggles of the top two hitters in the team’s lineup.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 0-4 on Sunday, does not have a hit in his last 12 at-bats and is only hitting .129 in 31 at-bats in August. Brett Gardner, who was 0-3 in the series finale, is only hitting .182 in 22 August at-bats with two RBIs. Gardner had a .297 average on July 28 and after his recent struggles at the plate his average is now .285.
They have hurt the offense because after being effective earlier on the season (especially Gardner) not getting on base has limited Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez’s opportunities to drive in runs. Teixeira, whose 77 RBIs are fifth in the American League, is in MVP consideration, and Rodriguez will likely win Comeback Player of the Year since he has 24 homers and 63 RBIs. However, Rodriguez and Teixeira have combined for two RBIs in the last five games.
“This isn’t going to be comfortable the rest of the way,” Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “We have to fight for every win and that’s what we expect every single game going forward.” The Blue Jays, who have won eight straight games, have a 1.5 game deficit after trailing the Yankees by six games on August 2.
Masahiro Tanaka, who had allowed three runs or more in eight of his previous nine games, limited Toronto to two runs on Sunday. MVP candidate Josh Donaldson hit a solo homer in the first and then Jose Bautista hit a blast to left on a pitch that got too much of the middle of the plate. Tanaka, who pitched well enough to get the win, has been hurt by the homer recently since he has allowed at least one long ball in four of his previous five games.
The Yankees need to bounce back offensively when they play the Indians in Cleveland starting on Tuesday. The Yankees play Toronto again next weekend and it appears that the race for the division title will be close until the end of the season. After only allowing one earned run in five innings in his first start, rookie Luis Severino will make his second start on Tuesday.