By RONALD BLUM=AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jacoby Ellsbury overcame a first-inning deficit against R.A. Dickey with a two-run homer on the knuckleballer’s third pitch of the game, then added an RBI single to lead the New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Monday.
In a matchup of teams fighting for playoff berths as the season passed Labor Day, Masahiro Tanaka (12-4) settled down after a shaky first to win his fifth straight decision.
New York (71-65) matched its season high of six games over .500 but remained on the periphery of contention, 3 1/2 games back for the AL’s second wild card. The AL East-leading Blue Jays (77-60) started the day one game ahead of Boston.
Toronto had been 9-3 against the Yankees this year, winning seven of the prior eight matchups, and the Blue Jays needed only seven pitches to jump in front again when Devon Travis doubled and Jose Bautista singled, both on 0-2 counts.
But Brett Gardner took a strike in the bottom half, then singled, and Ellsbury drove a high knuckler over the right-field short porch for his seventh home run.
Ellsbury added an RBI single in the third, and rookie Travis Austin hit his second double of the game in the fourth, a drive off the wall in left-center that drove in two runs for a 5-1 lead.
Tanaka allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, leaving after a leadoff walk and a fly ball by Dioner Navarro that 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge caught against the top of the right-field wall. Jonathan Holder, who made his big league debut Friday, got an out but walked his next two batters. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run, opposite-field single to right off Ben Heller for his third hit, and Tommy Layne retired pitch hitter Russell Martin on a looping ball to second baseman Starlin Castro.
Dellin Betances, the Yankees’ sixth pitcher, got three straight outs for his ninth save.
Dickey (9-14) allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings on a blustery afternoon, his second shortest start this season. He is 0-6 in his last nine starts at Yankee Stadium.
Ellsbury had three hits, including two against Dickey that lifted his average against the knuckleballer to .306 (11 for 36).
Eric Young Jr. took over Alex Rodriguez’s locker stall and Greg Bird moved into Carlos Beltran’s. Bird, sidelined all season following surgery in February to repair a right labrum tear, hit in a batting cage for the first time since the operation. He expects to face pitching in the instructional league for two weeks starting Sept. 26, and then play in the Arizona Fall League.
New York had 15 hits, all singles, in the weekend series at Baltimore, the first big league team to go without an extra-base hit in a series of three games or longer since the Chicago White Sox at Minnesota from Sept. 14-16, 2004. The Yankees had not done that since July 26-28, 1974, also at Baltimore.
Judge was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and has 35 strikeouts in 65 at-bats. He is batting .169. … New York’s Didi Gregorius is in a 1-for-19 slump.
John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Yankees: With RHP Chad Green sidelined with an elbow injury, manager Joe Girardi said his starting pitcher Wednesday could be Bryan Mitchell, who broke a toe in spring training and has a 4.29 ERA in six minor league rehabilitation starts. Girardi said his other option was “Johnny Wholestaff” _ a reference to using a combination of relievers. … OF Aaron Hicks was placed on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain, a move retroactive to Thursday.
RHP Luis Cessa (4-0) is to start for the Yankees on Tuesday and RHP Aaron Sanchez (13-2) goes for the Blue Jays.
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