Yankees fall into first-place tie in AL East

Yankees fall into first-place tie in AL East

Yankees fall into first-place tie in AL East
TORONTO -- The Yankees fully understand that they are in no position to squander opportunities, not at this critical juncture in the schedule, and that was why Saturday's disappointing loss seemed to sting so much.

New York's lineup flushed numerous chances to break the game open and paid a high cost, as Adeiny Hechavarria launched a go-ahead RBI double and the Blue Jays played September spoilers with a 3-2 victory at Rogers Centre.

New York is now tied for first with the Orioles in the American League East after Baltimore topped Boston, 4-3, on Saturday night.

"Tomorrow is going to be a must-win," the Yankees' Nick Swisher said. "We put ourselves in this situation and destiny in our own hands. We've got to go out and take it. No one is going to give us anything."

Hechavarria's sixth-inning double off Joba Chamberlain pelted the right-field wall, chasing home Yunel Escobar with what proved to be the deciding run as the Yankees lost for the fourth time in seven games.

Toronto starter Ricky Romero turned in three wobbly innings before leaving with left knee discomfort, and the Yankees had the leadoff man on base in six of nine innings. But they were limited to just two sacrifice flies, wasting another solid start by left-hander Andy Pettitte.

"Obviously, it's a loss; you don't feel good about that," said Pettitte, who was charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings. "It's just frustrating. The guys gave me a lead, I wasn't able to hold onto it and it ended up being a loss for us. At this point and the stage that we're in, every game that you lose is frustrating."

Casey Janssen pitched the ninth inning for his 21st save, placing the Yankees in danger of falling back into a tie for first place. New York and Baltimore have spent nine days tied for first place this month, but New York has led since Sept. 18.

"It was tough," Alex Rodriguez said. "Obviously, when you've got a guy on the ropes early on, you want to capitalize on it. It's never a good sign when you let the other team hang around a little bit, but we had plenty of chances. Hopefully, we'll come back tomorrow."

Pettitte said he felt healthy and strong as he completed his third start since returning from the disabled list, surrendering five hits and his first runs since being activated, as Rajai Davis hit a first-inning homer and collected a pair of RBIs for Toronto.

In the fifth, Jeff Mathis launched a leadoff double to deep center field and scored as Davis rolled a two-out infield single to A-Rod at third base, leaving enough time for the speedy Davis to beat the throw to first base.

"Nine [times] out of 10, I think it would have gone foul," Rodriguez said. "But with Rajai running, you have a split-second decision, and I took my chances. I couldn't tell, to be honest with you. I was up for the bunt and it was hugging the line, and it was one of those things where you've got to make a decision. I just took the more aggressive approach."

Toronto grabbed the lead in the sixth inning despite two great defensive plays by the Yankees, including a running grab by Curtis Granderson on Mathis' deep fly ball to center field, the last of the 94 pitches Pettitte threw.

"They hit some balls hard," Pettitte said. "When you're seeing your center fielder's number the whole game and you're the starting pitcher, you don't feel real good about that."

Hechavarria greeted Chamberlain by doubling off the right-field wall, with the inning ending as Yan Gomes was caught rounding third base on a heads-up relay throw by Swisher at first base.

"A big hit by Hech," Jays manager John Farrell said. "We have seen him hit very good pitching. He stays on some balls. The RBI base hit the other way for the go-ahead run was key in that moment."

Suffice it to say that Toronto hasn't impressed anyone with its fundamentals in this series, but the Yankees also endured their share of miscues on the basepaths.

Aaron Loup picked off Ichiro Suzuki in the seventh inning, and pinch-runner Brett Gardner was called out attempting to steal second in the eighth, though Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued and believes second-base umpire Tim Welke blew the call.

"He said he waited to make sure [Escobar] didn't drop the ball, but he had him," Girardi said. "I said, 'No, he didn't; I can see from where I'm at.'"

With those rallies short-circuiting, first-inning sacrifice flies from Robinson Cano and Granderson were all the Yankees managed. Toronto's bullpen combined for six scoreless innings, with Shawn Hill contributing three for the win, and New York's third-inning opportunity stood out as its most glaring miss.

In that frame, the Yankees loaded the bases against Romero with no outs, but Granderson popped out, Andruw Jones struck out and Eduardo Nunez lined out hard to second base.

Struggles with runners in scoring position have been a nagging, season-long theme for the Yankees, but they would agree to a man that this latest flare-up came at a most inopportune time.

"We couldn't make it happen," Swisher said. "That's no reason to get down on ourselves. We've got to keep pushing and come back here with a fire, and hopefully pull off that win tomorrow."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.