NEW YORK -- The Yankees are keeping an eye on the scoreboard as they continue their surprising hot streak, and the clubs in front of them might be starting to take notice.
Bryan Mitchell tossed five strong innings to earn his first Major League victory and Starlin Castro homered as the Yankees posted their fourth consecutive win, completing a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays with a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Brian McCann also contributed a third-inning RBI single as the Yankees improved to a season-high eight games over .500, closing within 2 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card spot. It was New York's first sweep of a three-game series this year. The Blue Jays fell to one game out in the AL East due to the Red Sox's win later Wednesday night.
"We'll get there if we continue to play like we're playing," Castro said. "Especially now in September, we're facing the teams in front of us. If we continue winning series like we did today, we'll be all right."
Mitchell stifled Toronto on four hits before handing the ball over to Luis Severino, who continued his run of excellent relief work with three one-hit frames. Tyler Clippard worked the ninth inning for his first save since joining the Yankees.
"They are a really good club, and we know that we have to keep winning to make up ground," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We keep getting closer, and that's the idea here. It's been fun."
Marcus Stroman was charged with the loss despite striking out eight, permitting two runs on seven hits and issuing a walk in five innings. The loss was the sixth of a nine-game road trip for the reeling Blue Jays.
"It's baseball, we're fine," said Stroman, whose team is about to open a three-game series vs. Boston. "It's an extremely confident group of guys we have. We're just going through a bit of a rough patch. But the mentality hasn't changed for a second in this clubhouse. I'm sure we'll get right back to it on Friday."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Starlin is darlin': Castro's third-inning home run put the Yankees on the board and was his 20th of the season, further extending a career high and placing him among some select company in franchise history. Only three other Yankees second basemen have hit 20 homers in a season: Robinson Cano (five times), Joe Gordon (four times) and Alfonso Soriano (twice).
"It's a really good place to hit," Castro said. "There's nothing better than home. I feel really good at the plate; I'm just looking for a pitch that I can drive and it's happening in a good way."
Trouble with the RISP: Runs have come at a premium for what's supposed to be a powerful Blue Jays lineup, and that was the case again Wednesday night. In the third inning, Melvin Upton Jr. and Kevin Pillar walked to open the frame, but Devon Travis then hit into a double play and Josh Donaldson grounded out to end the threat. In the sixth, Travis hit a leadoff double, but the Blue Jays could not find a way to score. Toronto finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners.
Worth the wait: Mitchell was a lock for the Yankees' Opening Day roster when he fractured his left big toe in his final spring appearance, and he reminded the Yankees of that promise as he pumped his fastball, cutter and curveball in the zone with consistency. Catcher Austin Romine said that Mitchell did a good job of locating pitches and pitching inside.
"It's been my goal all year to get back here," Mitchell said. "To come back right now, this exciting time, arguably the most important series of the year -- I'm just glad we got a win." More >
Missing Martin: Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin exited the game in the top of the ninth inning with a tweaked left knee and was replaced by pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro. Martin felt the pain while swinging the bat and came out of the box slow after grounding out in the seventh. The 33-year-old finished his evening 0-for-3 and is hoping to be ready for Friday's game against the Red Sox.
"I'm not too concerned about it," Martin said. "It's something I've been dealing with for a while now and I've actually hit pretty well with my knee bugging me, so I'm not too concerned." More >
"I think it's good for any team, regardless at this time of the year. ... I don't think we need a mental break. Guys are in a good frame of mind, but physically we're a little banged up." -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, on the importance of Thursday's off-day
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays have lost three consecutive games for the first time since June 18-21. This was the first time they were swept since a three-game series vs. Tampa Bay from May 16-18.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Yankees successfully challenged a play at first base in the top of the seventh inning. Michael Saunders dribbled a ball up the first-base line and was initially called safe by first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor, prompting an immediate challenge by Girardi. The call was overturned after replays showed Romine's throw just beat Saunders to the bag.
The Blue Jays also won a review in the bottom of the eighth inning on a stolen-base attempt by Chase Headley. Second-base umpire Mark Carlson initially called Headley safe, but Gibbons challenged the call and replays showed Headley was tagged on his lower half prior to reaching the base.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will have a much-needed off-day on Thursday before starting their most important series of the year on Friday night as the Red Sox come to town. Right-hander Marco Estrada (8-7, 3.56 ERA) will start the opener, while Boston is set to counter with Rick Porcello (19-3, 3.23 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Toronto is 7-6 vs. Boston this year, and the teams are tied in runs against each other with a score of 62-62.
Yankees:CC Sabathia (8-12, 4.20 ERA) will get the ball to open a four-game series with the Rays in the Bronx on Thursday at 7:05 p.m., coming off a pair of tough-luck losses to the Orioles. He last faced the Rays on Aug. 12, picking up a win as he held Tampa Bay to three runs and four hits over six innings. Alex Cobb starts for the Rays in his second outing of the season.