TORONTO -- David Price allowed two hits over seven dominating innings, throwing 87 of his 114 pitches for strikes, as the Blue Jays scored an early advantage in their pivotal series against the Yankees with a 4-2 victory on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
The win increased the Blue Jays' lead over New York to 3 1/2 games for first place in the American League East. Toronto also moved within 1 1/2 games of the Royals for the top record in the AL after Kansas City enjoyed a night off. The Blue Jays' lead atop the division can largely be attributed to their 12-5 record against New York with two games remaining between the two clubs.
Price struck out seven and retired 14 consecutive batters from the third inning until he left after seven. The AL Cy Young Award candidate improved to 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts with Toronto, which includes three victories over the Yankees. He lowered his overall ERA to a league-best 2.34 in 31 starts.
"That's a very good team, we all know that," Price said. "That's the most storied franchise in all of sports, so beating those guys is always fun, it's always tough. They always put together quality at-bats, they never give at-bats away, they're tough to pitch against. So beating them is always fun."
Justin Smoak had an RBI double for the Blue Jays, while Jose Bautista added an RBI single as part of a 2-for-4 night. New York right-hander Adam Warren took the loss after he allowed three runs in the first inning. He lasted 3 1/3 innings because of a low pitch count and surrendered five hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts.
The Yankees had an opportunity to get back into the game in the eighth inning after putting runners on the corners with nobody out. Jacoby Ellsbury cut the Blue Jays' lead to 4-1 with an RBI single up the middle, but left-hander Brett Cecil then struck out Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann to essentially put the game away. Greg Bird added a solo shot in the ninth for New York, but by then it was too little, too late.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Price vs. A-Rod: The early turning point in Monday's game came in the top of the third inning when the Yankees loaded the bases with one out for Rodriguez. It was a tricky situation for Price and led to an epic at-bat between the New York slugger and one of the game's top pitchers. Rodriguez eventually worked the count full and fouled a pair of tough pitches -- narrowly missing an extra-base hit to right field on a bloop that landed just foul -- before striking out on a 93-mph cutter. Price then got McCann to fly out to center as he escaped the inning. More >
"Price was good tonight," Rodriguez said. "When you face an elite pitcher, you usually get one crack at him. We had it and we came up short tonight. … Good situation, I got some good pitches to hit, fouled them off. When you get your pitch, you can't foul them off that many times."
Starting early: The Blue Jays set the tone early with three runs in the first inning off Warren. Ben Revere led off with a single, Josh Donaldson was hit by a pitch and Bautista drove home the game's first run with a single to center. Edwin Encarnacion then put Toronto up 2-0 on a grounder to shortstop, while Smoak capped the frame with an RBI double to right.
"It's not just me," Price was quick to point out. "I've got eight other guys out there on the field. We scored three in the first today, last time I pitched against the Yankees we scored five in the first. It's always a group effort."
Warren out quickly: The Yankees have been hurrying Warren back into starting mode in the wake of Nathan Eovaldi's right elbow injury, and manager Joe Girardi said he'd be "thrilled" to get six innings from Warren considering he was limited to about 80 pitches on Monday. Warren was not even close to that; the Jays made him throw 35 pitches in the first inning alone and he was able to complete just 3 1/3 frames. That made it a bullpen game for the Yanks, though Price had more to do with the outcome than New York's relievers.
"It's kind of a tough feeling when you don't know where the ball is going against any lineup, but when you go against that lineup, it's tough," Warren said. "You just try to slow the game down after the first and just make pitches. That's all you can do against a lineup like that."
Gardner rung up: The Yanks howled with disagreement when Gardner was called out by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson on an eighth-inning third strike that they believed to be high, and that changed the complexion of a budding rally. Instead of having the bases loaded and none out, Cecil was able to recover and strike out both A-Rod and McCann, whipping the crowd of 47,648 into a frenzy. More >
"The recipe has been working for them all year," Rodriguez said. "They have a strong bullpen, Cecil has been unbelievable, he has a hell of a curveball and tonight he showed that."
"I hope they pay him as much money as he wants. Somebody will, somebody will." -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Price, who is a free agent at the end of the year
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Luis Severino (4-3, 3.12 ERA) draws the start on Tuesday to face the Blue Jays for the third time in his brief career. The 21-year-old rookie right-hander pitched six impressive innings of three-run ball on Aug. 16 in Toronto, striking out nine in a loss, but was thumped by the Jays for six runs in 2 1/3 innings on Sept. 11 in New York, his shortest outing to date. The game is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.14 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Yankees. Estrada, who set a career high in innings pitched earlier this month, is coming off a nearly flawless outing vs. the Braves. He allowed just three hits and a pair of walks over eight scoreless innings to pick up his 13th win of the year.