NEW YORK -- There had been optimistic chatter in the Yankees' clubhouse about returning to "attack mode" with a series-opening romp over the Blue Jays. They made good on that boast Saturday: Didi Gregorius mashed two homers, Giancarlo Stanton hit his first long ball of the month and Miguel Andujar
NEW YORK -- There had been optimistic chatter in the Yankees' clubhouse about returning to "attack mode" with a series-opening romp over the Blue Jays. They made good on that boast Saturday: Didi Gregorius mashed two homers, Giancarlo Stanton hit his first long ball of the month and Miguel Andujar entered the game late to launch a grand slam.
Despite the power display, an early deficit and a rocky seventh inning by the bullpen prevented the Yankees from coming all the way back. An ineffective Carsten Sabathia was rocked for five runs in 2 1/3 innings, serving up three homers in his shortest start of the season, as the Yanks absorbed an 8-7 loss to Toronto at Yankee Stadium.
"Does it concern us? Yeah, because we're supposed to win," Gregorius said. "You always want to play to win. That's what's going on. That's what you want to do, for us. We're not playing that way right now, but I think we'll pick it up soon."
The Yankees' ninth loss in 16 games dropped them 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East with 14 to play. New York's advantage over the Athletics for the first AL Wild Card spot remained at 1 1/2 games after Oakland's loss to the Rays.
"We're in a dogfight," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These games are really important. What they do doesn't change it, but … it's important that we put our best foot forward and we're in a good position to get to where we want to go. But we've got to go take it."
Randal Grichuk homered twice for the Blue Jays, taking Sabathia deep in the second inning and again in the third. Kevin Pillar followed Grichuk's second homer with one of his own to chase Sabathia, who permitted seven hits and said that his cutter was not sharp. Sabathia fell to 0-3 with a 7.56 ERA in his last four starts, with the Yankees having lost all of those games.
"I think it's tough to go through any time in the season," Sabathia said. "You want to be playing well right now. Obviously, you want to be pitching better, but we've got more games to play. Just keep coming out playing hard and try to win the series."
Rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley tied his career high with 10 strikeouts, limiting the Yankees to two hits over five scoreless innings. He pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second by striking out the side, then pinned two men aboard in the third. His final strikeout came on a high-and-tight fastball to Stanton, who whiffed and spilled to the ground, pounding his right fist on the dirt in frustration.
Gregorius homered to lead off the sixth against Jake Petricka, but New York left the bases loaded as Dennis Tepera struck out Andrew McCutchen. Tommy Kahnle and Stephen Tarpley combined to give up three runs in the seventh, including a two-run Aledmys Diaz broken-bat single, negating homers from Stanton and Gregorius that came in the home half of the frame.
Andujar drew the Yankees within a run in the seventh by jumping on the first pitch he saw from Tyler Clippard for his second career grand slam, both of which have come against Toronto this season. But that was all for New York, as Ken Giles retired all four men he faced to lock down his 21st save.
"We have a group in there that is capable of turning this thing in a heartbeat," Boone said. "We've just got to keep battling through this right now. I feel like we are showing some signs of pulling ourselves out of it a little bit, but we've got to do better. We've got to get more consistent, and that's been the toughest thing for us right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Yankees twice left the bases loaded, finishing 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 men. In the second inning, Reid-Foley struck out Neil Walker, Luke Voit and Brett Gardner in order to escape unscathed.
New York also had the bags juiced in the sixth after a hit batter, a Voit single and a pinch-hit walk by Andujar, but Tepera fanned McCutchen to end the inning.
"I can't give you the reason why, but we're not doing what we're supposed to when it comes to scoring runs," Gregorius said. "I think that's the main thing. Scoring runs is how you win the game. I think everybody should come through, even me, in those situations."
Gregorius' 26 home runs have established a single-season franchise record for shortstops, eclipsing the 25 that he hit last year. Only three other Yankees middle infielders have hit 25 homers in a season: Robinson Cano (2009-13), Joe Gordon (1938-40) and Alfonso Soriano ('02-03).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Gregorius said that his left heel feels much better following a stint on the disabled list, and he is showing it -- not only at the plate, but also in the field. In the sixth inning, the "18" on Gregorius' back was pointed directly at home plate as the shortstop made a terrific catch to rob Richard Urena on a popup to shallow center.
The Yankees conclude their weekend series against the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, as right-hander Lance Lynn (9-10, 5.01 ERA) tries to log back-to-back victories. Lynn snapped a five-start winless streak by defeating the Mariners on Sept. 8 at Seattle, hurling six innings of two-run ball. Left-hander Thomas Pannone (2-1, 4.13 ERA) will start for Toronto.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.