Blue Jays break out, push Yanks back in WC race

Blue Jays break out, push Yanks back in WC race

TORONTO -- After Francisco Liriano's six shutout innings preserved a narrow lead, the Blue Jays' previously struggling offense erupted for four runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth en route to a 9-0 win over the Yankees on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays, who had been averaging 3.6 runs per game in September coming into the night, retained their one-game lead for the top American League Wild Card spot over the Tigers, who defeated the Royals. The loss officially eliminated the Yankees from contention for the AL East title and dropped them four games behind the Tigers for the second AL Wild Card spot.

"That was fun," said Devon Travis, who doubled and singled to lift his batting average to .308. "If we could score nine every game, that's definitely ideal. I think it's what this offense is capable of doing."

Troy Tulowitzki delivered a pair of two-run singles, including one in that seventh-inning rally. Jose Bautista also drove in two in the seventh with a double, pushing the Yankees toward their seventh loss in nine games. Josh Donaldson capped the scoring in the eighth with a two-run homer, his 36th.

Donaldson's two-run homer

Travis also dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt that led to a run in the second. The Blue Jays rarely bunt, but manager John Gibbons -- no doubt thinking of his team's recent offensive woes -- decided to use it early on.

After joking that he called for the bunt to silence media critics who claim he should use it more often, Gibbons said: "It's definitely a misconception that I'm anti-bunt, that's for sure. But there are certain times you need it."

Liriano, who allowed three hits and struck out six, lowered his ERA to 3.35 in nine games since joining the Blue Jays in a trade with Pittsburgh. Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell also had a solid outing, allowing three runs (one earned) in six innings.

"It's not what you want, I mean, it's frustrating," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought Mitch pitched a pretty good game and probably should have given up just one run over the six innings. I thought he settled down after the first two innings pretty well, but we just couldn't get anything going."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bautista's revenge: In the seventh inning, the Yankees intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion to get to Bautista. Moments later, Bautista's bases-loaded double extended the Blue Jays' lead to 5-0. Among his 91 hits, 43 (47.3 percent) have gone for extra bases. The hit also extended his on-base streak to 30 games.

Bautista's two-run double

Coming up empty: The Yankees' bats went silent once again, squandering several early opportunities to get back into the game. After going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 men on base against the Rays on Thursday, New York went 0-for-4 with RISP and left six men on base against the Blue Jays, including the bases loaded in the first. The Yankees have not scored since the ninth inning of Wednesday's game in St. Petersburg.

Liriano strands the bases loaded

"You can get three runs pretty quick," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said about the team's early deficit. "Obviously, we didn't get any runs tonight. It would have been nice to keep it close and then the approach would have been a little different late, but obviously it didn't work out that way." More >

Liriano escapes: The Yankees had two runners aboard with none out in the third inning, but Liriano retired the heart of the lineup -- Gary Sanchez, Billy Butler and Didi Gregorius -- in order to preserve a 3-0 lead.

"He's one of those guys that could always dominate teams," Gibbons said. "He really hasn't lost a whole lot." More >

Liriano's scoreless start

Costly bobbles: Starting for just the 32nd time in two years at first base, Butler's error cost the Yankees in the first inning. Butler booted a grounder by Donaldson and then threw the ball behind Mitchell covering the bag. The error set up a two-run single by Tulowitzki to put New York in an early 2-0 hole. Brian McCann made another miscue in the seventh, dropping Aaron Hicks' throw to the plate, which allowed Travis to advance to second base during Toronto's four-run frame.

"That's baseball, that's going to happen," Mitchell said. "You can't dwell on that. If I sit there and focus on that, I'm not really paying attention to the guy batting, so you've just got to move past that and try and get the next guy."

Tulowitzki's two-run single

QUOTABLE
"Who the hell knows? It might be global warming." -- Gibbons, when asked what's causing the home run surge across the Major Leagues this season. Through Thursday, 5,337 homers had been hit, creating a long-shot possibility of threatening the record of 5,693 set in 2000.

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: CC Sabathia (8-12, 4.19 ERA) looks to continue his solid September on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Sabathia has allowed eight earned runs in 21 1/3 innings this month, but he is still in search of his first victory since Aug. 23 against Seattle. First pitch is set for 4:07 p.m. ET.

Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (9-9, 4.50 ERA) gets the start opposite Sabathia. He has lost his past four starts, despite allowing three or fewer earned runs in each. The Blue Jays have scored a total of five runs in those games.

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John Lott is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Friday.

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Yankees on Friday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.