Coming off back-to-back defeats isn’t the way the Toronto Blue Jays envisioned heading into their most critical series of the season.
David Price has made a habit of helping them forget about losses quickly.
Toronto sends Price to the mound Monday night in the opener of a three-game series with the second-place New York Yankees looking to avoid its first three-game skid in nearly 2 1/2 months.
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The Blue Jays (85-64) began a stretch of three straight victories when Price (16-5, 2.42 ERA) struck out nine in seven innings of a 9-1 win at Atlanta on Wednesday, but Boston ended that run with wins Saturday and Sunday in Toronto.
They committed a season high-tying three errors in the last defeat after having that many over their previous 14 combined.
”We’ve been playing outstanding defense, so we were due for a clunker like this,” said pitcher Mark Buehrle, who made a poor relay throw in fourth inning that led to Boston’s first run. ”We’ve just got to come back and be ready for the Yankees.”
Toronto’s lead atop the AL East over New York (82-66) shrunk to 2 1/2 games after the Yankees beat the Mets 11-2 later Sunday. The Blue Jays haven’t lost three in a row since July 8-10, and having Price on the mound appears to be their best chance to prevent it from happening again.
Price is 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in nine starts since being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline. Four of those victories have come immediately following a Toronto loss, and it had dropped two straight before Price beat the Braves last week.
”He did a nice job picking us up after we lost a couple games,” manager John Gibbons said. ”That’s what we brought him over for and he’s been great.”
The left-hander, who leads the AL in ERA, has gone 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in three starts against the Yankees since the trade, striking out 20 in 19 1-3 innings. The Blue Jays built a seven-run lead for Price before he exited after five innings of an 11-5 win the last time faced them Sept. 11.
Toronto is 11-5 against the Yankees this season and has a prime chance to extend its division lead before playing its final 10 games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
After gaining a game Sunday, New York has an opportunity to leave Canada atop the East. It has won five of seven after Dustin Ackley and Greg Bird hit three-run homers and Jacoby Ellsbury added three hits in Sunday’s victory.
”It’s huge for us,” said Carlos Beltran, who drove in two runs. ”They’re in first place. We’re trying to get there.”
Ellsbury is 7 for 16 during a four-game hitting streak after going hitless in 22 at-bats over his previous five. He’s batting .429 with a 1.156 OPS, two homers, two triples and two doubles during a 10-game hitting streak at Rogers Centre.
He’ll look to extend that run in support of Adam Warren (6-6, 3.33), who gets the nod for his second straight start after allowing two runs in four innings of Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Warren began the season in the Yankees’ rotation and made 14 starts before moving to the bullpen at the end of June.
The right-hander hasn’t started against the Blue Jays since 2013, but he’s pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings over three relief appearances against them this season. Josh Donaldson is 0 for 6 against Warren in his career.