TORONTO -- In a game marred by two early benches-clearing incidents, the Yankees scored five runs in the ninth inning -- three coming on homers by Mark Teixeira and Aaron Hicks -- and defeated the Blue Jays, 7-5, on Monday night at Rogers Centre to win the finale of the four-game series.
The loss cut the Blue Jays' lead for the first American League Wild Card to one game over the idle Orioles, who begin a crucial three-game series Tuesday in Toronto. The Blue Jays are in a solid position with six games left, as they are three games up for a Wild Card spot.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are five games behind the O's for the second Wild Card spot, with an elimination number of two.
After Yankees starter Luis Severino was ejected for hitting Justin Smoak in the second, the Yanks used seven relievers, including closer Dellin Betances, who didn't record an out in the ninth. The Yankees' uprising deprived J.A. Happ of his 21st victory. He worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs.
"There was a lot of emotion in the game," Teixeira said, acknowledging that he let Jason Grilli know he blew the save. "We were just having fun with it. Our team has been fighting all year. We're probably not going to make the playoffs, so we're just going to enjoy the rest of the year, keep fighting. We had fun tonight. The start of the game was unnecessary, but we finished it well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
I got five on it: The Yanks' bats came alive in the ninth. In possibly his final road game, Teixeira tied the game -- accentuated with a bat flip -- with a one-out homer off Grilli, who was working the ninth because Roberto Osuna had closed out the two previous games. The veteran first baseman tied Dave Winfield for 13th on the Yankees' all-time list with No. 205. After Didi Gregorius singled, Hicks put the Yankees in the lead for good with his long two-run shot and New York added two more runs on a Jacoby Ellsbury RBI single and Gary Sánchez's sacrifice fly. The five runs in the ninth tied the Yanks' output from their previous 35 innings.
"I've never done it before," Teixeira said about the bat flip. "Like I said, it could be the last home run I hit. So why not bat flip on it? Sure." More >
Tension mounts: Not one, but two benches-clearing incidents highlighted the early portion, with emotions running high and both teams competing for the playoffs. Severino got it started by hitting Josh Donaldson in the bottom of the first, then Happ hit Chase Headley in the top of the second to cause the benches to clear for the first time, with Yankees manager Joe Girardi getting ejected.
The action took an encore in the bottom of the second after Severino grooved another heater at Smoak, which led to Severino's immediate ejection and another skirmish. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bench coach Rob Thomson received ejections after the second altercation. More >
"I was mad because Happ hit him on purpose and he had one shot," Girardi said. "You throw it behind the guy and you miss, I mean, he's got to be tossed. That's terrible, it's terrible."
"That's just kind of the unwritten rules of baseball," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said of the fracas that erupted after Severino hit Smoak. "You hit one of our guys, our MVP guy [Donaldson]. After that, sometimes the ball slips out of the pitcher's hand and for some reason it's even. That's kind of how the game goes."
"It's just part of baseball," Happ said. "Nobody's trying to hurt anybody. But balls get away from guys. Balls get away from me, as it did tonight. It's part of the game and people take it different ways and we saw what happened."
Too little, too late: Facing a four-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, the Blue Jays rallied for two runs in the final frame, but unlike Sunday, could not complete the comeback. With one out and two runs and the bases loaded, Martin hit a dribbler that reliever Tommy Layne fielded and dove to touch the plate with his glove, narrowly forcing out a sliding Dalton Pompey. With the bases still loaded, Layne then retired Troy Tulowitzki on a fly ball that Brett Gardner chased down with a sliding grab to end it.
"Unbelievable job by Tommy," Girardi said. "The play that he made on Russell's ball, not to run into Sanchez and he had to avoid his helmet. Just a great performance. He's athletic and he made an athletic play."
Benoit wounded:Joaquin Benoit, a key reliever for the Blue Jays, was limping noticeably as he was helped off the field after he was injured during the second-inning fracas. Since joining Toronto in a July 26 trade with Seattle, Benoit has allowed only one run in 23 2/3 innings while working regularly in the seventh. More >
"I've got no concerns, of course, depending on what happens with Benoit," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Early offense: Facing the bullpen after Severino was ejected, Tulowitzki hammered an RBI double in the third to snap a 1-1 tie and chase Jonathan Holder. It was Tulowitzki's 15th extra-base hit out of 31 total hits with runners in scoring position this season. Michael Saunders followed with an RBI single to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
"Was that fun to watch or what? We're all entertainers aren't we?" -- Teixeira, on the night's events
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays have lost each of their past 14 games in which they have not hit a home run.
The Blue Jays won their review in the sixth on a disputed play at first base. Kevin Pillar hit a ground ball up the middle which was fielded by Yankees second baseman Ronald Torreyes. Umpire Tom Hallion initially ruled that Torreyes' throw beat Pillar to the plate, but after a 55-second review, the call was overturned.
Yankees: The Yankees open up their final homestand with a three-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. ET. New York will hand the ball to right-hander Luis Cessa (4-3, 4.30 ERA). The 24-year-old has pitched into the sixth in each of his seven starts -- though he's yet to go more than six.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays open a critical three-game series for AL Wild Card supremacy with the Orioles on Tuesday at Rogers Centre with first pitch at 7:07 p.m. ET. Toronto will hand the ball to All-Star right-hander Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 3.12), who is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA against Baltimore this season. The O's will counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman (8-11, 3.57).
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