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As Close As They Come

By BEN WALKER  AP Baseball Writer

 

NEW YORK (AP) _ Brett Gardner made a leaping catch at the top of the left-field wall on Justin Smoak’s bases-loaded drive for the final out, and the New York Yankees held on during a nervy ninth inning to beat the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 on a misty Tuesday night.

A scrambly September game with October implications seesawed to the last swing, and turned at the end in favor of the Yankees. New York won its third in a row and sent Toronto to its fourth loss in five games.

At a season-high seven games over .500, the Yankees closed within 41/2 games of first place, their smallest deficit since April, and remained 31/2 back for the AL’s second wild card.

The Blue Jays had already scored twice in the ninth off Dellin Betances when they loaded the bases with one out. Blake Parker, the eighth New York pitcher, suddenly became an unlikely closer, and he struck out Kevin Pillar.

Smoak was up next, and he hit a drive to deep left. Gardner ran back, jumped and corralled the ball at the top of the padding. He immediately leaped in the air to celebrate as the Yankees rushed out to congratulate him. A few minutes later, a replay of the catch drew another ovation from the fans.

Tyler Austin’s two-run homer in the seventh off AL ERA leader Aaron Sanchez put the Yankees ahead 3-2. Pillar lined a two-out, two-run double in the eighth that gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 edge.

The Yankees then rallied for four runs in their half for a 7-4 lead, capped by Chase Headley’s two-run homer. The drive off Jason Grilli (5-5) left the reliever bent over at the mound in frustration.

With the Yankees running out of time to chase a playoff spot, manager Joe Girardi spared no expense with his staff. Chasen Shreve (2-1) wound up with the win and Parker got his first save since 2013 with the Cubs.

Betances made it interesting in the ninth, walking the first two batters while working his third straight day. Edwin Encarnacion and Melvin Upton got RBI singles on infield hits to pull Toronto within a run.

Sanchez threw seven innings and left with a 2.92 ERA. The Blue Jays are trying to limit his workload, giving the 24-year-old All-Star extra rest. He already has thrown more than 36 innings over his previous high in any season.

Encarnacion hit his 37th homer into the second deck for Toronto and tied his career high with 111 RBIs. He started the day tied with Angels slugger Albert Pujols for the league lead in RBIs.

Playing on his 25th birthday and batting ninth, Austin sliced a two-out drive to right-center. His only other homer came on Aug. 13 in his first major league at-bat.

Brian McCann also homered for the Yankees.

     TRAINER’S ROOM

 Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki was back in the lineup, a day after manager John Gibbons said he needed a game to rest.

 Yankees: Rookie RHP Chad Green (2-4, 4.73) is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a sprained pitching elbow, general manager Brian Cashman said.

     UP NEXT
 
 Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (9-6, 4.58) has allowed eight earned runs in 12 innings over his last two starts.

Yankees: RHP Bryan Mitchell was promoted from Triple-A before the game and is likely to make his Yankees debut this year, starting vs. Toronto. He injured a toe in spring training and missed most of this season. He’s 0-3 in stints the past two years with New York.

 

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

 

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