NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays' offense has been struggling for most of the season because their timely hits have been missing in action. They found them Thursday afternoon.
On a day when Toronto's lineup once again had issues putting together a prolonged rally, the Blue Jays found a way to make the most of their opportunities. Two hits with runners in scoring position proved to be the difference in a 3-1 victory over the Yankees.
Toronto's production with runners in scoring position has been its biggest issue all year. The Blue Jays entered play Thursday ranked second-last in the American League with a .216 average with RISP (75-for-347), but they went 2-for-6 when it counted in the Bronx.
"We've been missing that, not just against these guys, we've been missing that for a while," manager John Gibbons said. "The name of the game is hitting with guys in scoring position. It's not always easy, but we came through today again."
The Blue Jays' first opportunity came in the top of the third inning when they loaded the bases with two outs. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion then came through with a two-run single to left as Toronto took an early 2-1 lead.
Prior to that at-bat, Encarnacion was two for his last 17 with runners in scoring position. He still leads the team with 35 RBIs, but like a lot of his teammates, the clutch hits have been absent. He got enough of a 1-0 pitch from CC Sabathia in what proved to be the difference maker.
"It was very important for us," Encarnacion said of the early runs. "We're trying to do the best we can do, and for me, I try to do the best I can do, waiting for my pitch in the strike zone and put a good swing on it.
"[Teams] have been throwing me a lot of pitches outside, but I still have to wait for my pitch in the strike zone. I've been swinging at a lot of bad pitches, that's the adjustment I need to make."
Two runs were all the Blue Jays could piece together until the top of the ninth. This time, they put a pair of runners on base with two outs for second baseman Devon Travis. Even though it was his second game since returning from the disabled list, Travis found a way to come through against one of the best in baseball.
New York closer Aroldis Chapman peppered the strike zone with six consecutive fastballs that were all clocked at 101 mph. That's a tall task for any hitter to have success against, particularly someone who hasn't had an opportunity to get his timing down at the plate. But on the sixth pitch, Travis fought out a 102-mph fastball and sent it the opposite way for another RBI single.
For a team that is 4-10 in one-run games this year, insurance runs are a big deal, especially as the lineup continues to work its way through a season-long funk.
"I told myself before that pitch, 'OK, you're late, try to hit it to left-center,' and I hit it between first and second," Travis said of catching up to the high velocity. "I just think for the guys who throw a little harder, you almost have to set your sights a little further to the pull side and hopefully you can hit it fair to the right side."