The New York Yankees are making the last week of the season very difficult for themselves.
Adeiny Hechavarria doubled home the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-2 on Saturday, trimming New York’s lead atop the AL East to half a game.
New York fell into a first place tie with Baltimore after the Orioles beat Boston 4-3 later Saturday.
”We had chances to blow that game open and we didn’t,” manager Joe Girardi said. ”You look at the opportunities that you have and you say, `We could have a pretty big lead here,’ but we didn’t do it.”
Toronto’s Rajai Davis homered and had three hits as the Blue Jays heaped more pressure on the Yankees, who wasted several opportunities early. New York went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
New York’s only hits with runners in scoring position were both singles, and neither brought home a run.
”We had some opportunities tonight, couldn’t make it happen,” Nick Swisher said. ”It’s not like we’re going to get down on ourselves. We’ve got to keep pushing, come back here (Sunday) with a fire.”
Still, even Swisher conceded that New York’s margin for error is thin with just four games remaining.
”(Sunday) is going to be a must win,” he said. ”We put ourselves in this situation, our destiny is in our own hands and we’ve got to go out and take it. No one is going to give us anything.”
Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Shawn Hill (1-0) worked three innings of scoreless relief for the win, his first since Sept. 23, 2010. Casey Janssen closed it out for his 21st save in 24 chances.
In all, Toronto got six scoreless innings from its bullpen after left-hander Ricky Romero had to leave with a sore left knee.
”An outstanding job by the bullpen today,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. ”Shawn Hill gave us a huge lift.”
Andy Pettitte’s stretch of 11 scoreless innings since his return from a broken lower left leg was halted in the first when Davis hit a one-out solo homer to left, his eighth.
Davis had hits in his first three at-bats after a 4-for-4 night Friday, giving him seven straight hits before he struck out in the seventh.
The Yankees loaded the bases twice in the first inning but managed just a pair of sacrifice flies by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.
New York loaded the bases again in the third but failed to score, coming up empty when Hechavarria made a diving catch on Eduardo Nunez’s sharp liner for the third out.
”When you get a guy on the ropes early on you want to capitalize,” Alex Rodriguez said. ”It’s never a good sign when you let the other team hang around a little bit.”
Toronto tied it in the fifth when Jeff Mathis led off with a double, took third on a fly and scored on a two-out infield single by Davis.
Davis’ bouncer up the third base line appeared to be headed foul. Rodriguez, who was playing in to guard against the bunt, fielded it but couldn’t throw to first in time to beat the speedy Davis.
”In hindsight, I think it would have gone foul,” Rodriguez said. ”With Rajai running, it’s kind of a split-second decision. I took my chances.”
The Blue Jays chased Pettitte (5-4) and took a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Yunel Escobar walked, Yan Gomes reached on a bunt single and Moises Sierra flied out before Mathis hit another deep drive, with Granderson making a running catch on the warning track.
Joba Chamberlain came on to face Hechavarria, who doubled off the wall in right, scoring Escobar. Gomes went too far around third on the play and was thrown out, killing Toronto’s rally.
Pettitte allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.
”Obviously it was a loss so I don’t feel good about that,” Pettitte said. ”The guys gave me a lead and I wasn’t able to hold onto it and it ended up being a loss for us.”
In his final start of a disappointing season, Romero injured his knee in the third and didn’t return for the fourth. Farrell and assistant trainer Hap Hudson came to the mound after Romero missed high on a 2-2 pitch to Andruw Jones in the third and hopped around the mound in pain. After a few practice pitches, Romero stayed in the game to strike out Jones, then escaped when Nunez lined out.
Romero, who did not speak to reporters, was scheduled to undergo additional tests. He allowed two runs and three hits, boosting his ERA to 5.77, highest among qualified AL starters. He also walked two, giving him an AL-high 105 walks.
”It was clear that it wasn’t something that we were going to push,” Farrell said of Romero’s injury.
A first time All-Star in 2011, Romero struggled mightily this year, losing 13 consecutive decisions between June 22 and Sept. 24.
Derek Jeter started at designated hitter with Nunez at shortstop, but Jeter entered the game in the sixth. Girardi, who had hoped to get Jeter a day off the turf, said the move was made for defensive reasons.
Notes: Yankees INF Jayson Nix returned to New York for an MRI on his injured left hip, leaving Nunez as the team’s primary backup infielder. … Girardi said 1B Mark Teixeira (left calf) was fine after playing an Instructional League game in Florida, and remains on track to rejoin the Yankees next week. … Hechavarria extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Hill is the 54th player used by Toronto this season, a club record. … Attendance was 36,139, putting the Blue Jays over 2 million for the first time since 2008. Toronto has four home dates remaining.