Carrera's safety squeeze sets up walk-off win

Carrera's safety squeeze sets up walk-off win

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are known for hitting home runs, but they found a rather unconventional way to steal a victory away from the Yankees on Sunday afternoon: The safety squeeze.

Ezequiel Carrera brought home the tying run in the ninth inning with a bunt up the first-base line. That not only gave the Blue Jays renewed life but it also set the stage for Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off single later in the inning for a 4-3 victory over the Yankees.

Toronto is one of the most home-run reliant teams in all of baseball. The club ranks second in the Majors with 216 homers, but with runs coming at a premium in September, the Blue Jays also have started playing more small ball. There were a pair of bunt attempts earlier in the game, a lot of aggressive baserunning, and the game-altering squeeze.

"Zeke can handle that bat with the best of them when it comes to bunting and things like that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We were fortunate that it was one of those plays that they tried to flip home, and it really opened up the whole inning."

Carrera and Encarnacion will receive most of the attention after the win, but it was a seven-pitch walk by Melvin Upton Jr. that made everything possible. Upton, who was leading off, fell behind 0-2 vs. New York closer Dellin Betances but worked his way back in the count and drew a free pass on a 97-mph fastball outside the zone.

The Yankees then turned to right-hander Tyler Clippard, who surrendered an opposite-field single to Kevin Pillar. That brought Carrera to the plate with the tying run on third base and nobody out, but instead of trying to lift a ball into the air, he opted to lay one down on the right side of the infield.

Upton broke for home as soon as he saw the ball hit the ground, and by the time Clippard got there, it was too late. Clippard flipped the ball toward home plate with his glove as Upton easily scored to tie the game at 3, with two runners still on base. That's not how a lot of people would draw it up, but in this case, Carrera's creativity paid off.

"I was thinking about it, and when I saw first and third, I knew I was going to do it," Carrera said through an interpreter after the game. "So I went out there and did what I thought I was going to do. ... You're always trying to bunt for a hit, but my intentions were to just move the runners."

Encarnacion put a final stamp on the game later in the inning with an infield single between first and second base. Pillar ran home for the winning run as the Blue Jays swarmed the field and circled around Encarnacion in celebration of their first walk-off win since June 10 vs. Baltimore.

Encarnacion's walk-off single

The victory allowed the Blue Jays to maintain their 1 1/2-game lead over the Orioles for the first American League Wild Card. Toronto also picked up another game on the Tigers, who lost to the Royals on Sunday and now find themselves third in the Wild Card but three games back of Toronto.

"I just feel very happy because we were down, and I just feel very happy to bring that win to the team," said Encarnacion, who has now reached base in 11 consecutive games.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.