Ellsbury lifts Yanks past Jays in series opener

April 12th, 2016

TORONTO -- Jacoby Ellsbury hit the go-ahead single in the top of the seventh inning and Brian McCann hit a game-tying homer as the Yankees gained an early advantage in their series against the Blue Jays with a 3-2 win on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.

New York entered the sixth trailing, 2-1, until McCann evened the score with a deep home run to right field. One inning later, the Yankees put their first two hitters on base before Ellsbury delivered the decisive blow with a bloop RBI single to left field off left-hander Brett Cecil.

"You can't expect to be good when you go ball, strike, ball, strike. That's what it comes down to," Blue Jays starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez said. "I think in the second inning, I let some things affect me that shouldn't have, and it ended up costing a run. Obviously the pitch to McCann, you can't do anything about it, it was a good pitch, and I've just got to tip my cap there."

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was limited to five innings because of a high pitch count. He held the Blue Jays to two runs -- a Jose Bautista two-run double -- and allowed just three hits, but he walked four batters and frequently struggled with his command. The win went to Johnny Barbato, the first of his Major League career.

"It's been crazy. It's been a whirlwind," Barbato said. "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time, one pitch at a time, and just go out there and do what I can do. I think I can go out there and compete, and so far, it's worked."

Cecil saw his early-season struggles continue as he allowed the first two batters in the seventh to reach base. Chase Headley singled to left and Starlin Castro earned a four-pitch walk before Ellsbury's go-ahead RBI.

New York improved to 4-2 with the victory while the Blue Jays dropped to 3-5.


Tanaka grinds:
It had all the makings of a short night for Tanaka, who seemed reluctant to challenge in the zone and tossed 54 pitches through two innings, but the right-hander recovered to complete five innings at 92 pitches. A key moment came in the third inning after pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound. Tanaka's next pitch coaxed a double-play ball from Chris Colabello, and Tanaka blanked Toronto over the next two frames.

"I felt like I was able to sort of hang in there, and I feel fortunate that I was able to keep the score to a minimum of two runs," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "That part, I think, was a positive."

Bautista breaks through: The Blue Jays made Tanaka throw a lot of pitches early but they didn't have anything to show for it until the third inning. Kevin Pillar was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and Josh Donaldson followed with a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Bautista then doubled to the gap in right-center field, which scored two. Toronto's star right fielder has reached base at least once in all of the Blue Jays' eight games this season.

Contact, both hard and soft: A long homer and a weak flare flipped the contest in the Yankees' favor. In the sixth, McCann unloaded on his second home run of the season, a deep drive to right that Bautista didn't even budge for. In the seventh, Didi Gregorius executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance a pair of runners. One pitch after thinking he had ball four, Ellsbury got just enough of a Cecil pitch to punch it into shallow left field, bringing Headley home with the go-ahead run.

"It's real satisfying. You can always use your bullpen different when you have a lead," manager Joe Girardi said. "We thought it was important to get the lead. Cecil has been tough on left-handed hitters. Didi did a good job. I thought Jake did a tremendous job battling there, just put the ball in play and a good thing happened. The infield was in and a good thing happened."

Dealin' Dellin:Dellin Betances struck out three of the four batters he faced in a dominant appearance, summoned to replace Chasen Shreve in the seventh inning. Betances rose to the challenge, freezing Bautista on a nasty curve that ended the frame, then did the same to Colabello as he ended the eighth.

"I love it. I love coming in in a tight game, facing the heart of the lineup," Betances said. "I enjoy that moment and try to do the best I can."


Donaldson singled as part of the Blue Jays' two-run third inning, which extended his hitting streak to eight games. Toronto's All-Star third baseman had his streak of consecutive games with an extra-base hit snapped at four, which was one shy of his career high.


Yankees:Michael Pineda will make his second start of the season on Wednesday at 7:07 p.m. ET, looking for a better outing after permitting six runs and eight hits in five innings to the Astros on April 6. To prepare, Pineda said he reviewed video of a May 5, 2015, start vs. the Blue Jays in Toronto, when he blanked Toronto on four hits over eight innings.

Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their series against the Yankees on Wednesday at 7:07 p.m. ET. Happ tossed six strong innings during his season debut against the Rays and allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four. This will be Happ's first outing against the Yankees since 2014.

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