NEW YORK -- Matt Holliday and Aaron Judge supplied early thunder, then Chris Carter and Didi Gregorius served up small-ball knocks in the seventh inning as the Yankees came from behind for an 8-6 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Carter flared a soft game-tying single over the drawn-in infield and Gregorius pushed the go-ahead run across with a pinch-hit single back to the mound off Joe Biagini, fueling a rally that placed the Yanks alone atop the American League East with the Orioles' loss to the Red Sox.
"I think it's really just leaning on our veteran guys," Judge said. "We have a lot of veteran guys in this clubhouse. They've been through the long seasons, the postseasons, the big situations. We're always feeding off that and trying to have quality at-bats."
Aaron Hicks also worked a bases-loaded walk in the seventh as the Yanks' bats covered up for another subpar effort from starter CC Sabathia. Lacking his good slider, the veteran permitted six runs and seven hits over four-plus innings, including Steve Pearce's three-run homer in the first.
"It's great to be on a team where we're all pulling for each other," Sabathia said. "It's translating to wins on the field right now. It feels good to have the team winning, but you want to be a part of something, and be a part of the winning."
Toronto had to go to its bullpen early as Stroman lasted just three innings before exiting with what he later described as "general arm tightness." He added there is no need to go for further evaluations and that he feels "great" despite the injury.
"The tightness was causing me just a little toughness to get extension at some points, but like I said, I'm not worried about it," Stroman said. "I'll just go through my normal workouts during the week, focus on some things and I'll be ready to rock come Tuesday."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED All the way back: Biagini opened the seventh inning with his fifth straight strikeout, fanning Starlin Castro, but Judge marked his first career three-hit game with a single and Chase Headley doubled. That set up Carter, whose looping flare over shortstop had just a 16 percent hit probability according to Statcast™. Gregorius also hit into some good fortune, tapping a potential double-play ball that struck Biagini's glove and went for an RBI single.
"Obviously Judge has been out of this world, but I just feel like we have good at-bats up and down the lineup," Headley said. "Even the outs, they're tough outs. We're battling the pitcher, we're getting guys on base, we're not swinging at a ton of pitches. There's a lot of guys that can hurt you up and down the lineup."
Stop right there: Toronto appeared set to inflict more damage in the fifth as Russell Martin started the inning with a walk and Kendrys Morales chased Sabathia with a single. Adam Warren was the first of several Yanks relievers to pitch effectively, extinguishing the rally by getting Justin Smoak to fly out to right field, striking out Pearce and -- after a wild pitch advanced the runners -- inducing Devon Travis to bounce into an inning-ending groundout.
"I felt pretty good. I felt almost better as it went on than I did at the beginning. I got settled in and got into a rhythm and I didn't feel like I was getting tired. Throughout today, I felt like I was in my delivery the way I wanted to be, I felt like I stayed within myself better than in other games recently. I think I'm going in the right direction." -- Biagini, on throwing a season-high 41 pitches
Both benches were barking at home-plate umpire Bill Welke about balls and strikes all night, but it was Yankees manager Joe Girardi who got the thumb in the bottom of the seventh inning. It marked Girardi's first ejection of the season.
"It started in the sixth inning," Girardi said. "There were four pitches that I felt weren't strikes. It's an important time. We're down a run. A couple strike ones and a couple strike threes. You're at the top of your order and it's kind of frustrating."
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Toronto will enjoy an off-day on Thursday before opening a three-game series on the road vs. the Rays. Left-hander Francisco Liriano will start the series opener, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. The last time Liriano pitched at Tropicana Field he could not get out of the first inning as he allowed five runs on three hits and four walks.
Yankees: New York will travel to Chicago, where it is scheduled to open a three-game series against the Cubs at 2:20 p.m. ET on Friday. Right-hander Michael Pineda limited the Orioles to two unearned runs over 5 1/3 innings in his last outing, walking one and striking out eight. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks goes for the defending World Series champions.