NEW YORK -- Russell Martin hit a game-tying home run, then forced in the go-ahead run by working one of four eighth-inning walks issued during a meltdown by All-Star reliever Dellin Betances as the Blue Jays edged the Yankees, 7-6, on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Martin tied the game with a seventh-inning blast into the right-field bullpen off reliever Chad Green, then looked at a 3-2 pitch out of the strike zone in the eighth as Betances once again could not command his pitches, issuing free passes to Miguel Montero, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins to open the inning.
"Definitely a big series win right there," Martin said. "We had to win that grudge match to kind of have a good flight and feel good about ourselves going into a tough series against Houston. It definitely feels good. It feels like we're on the right track and we're starting to click a little bit, so hopefully we can keep it going."
New York took its 16th loss in 22 games despite rallying from a 5-0 deficit after starter Michael Pineda completed just three-plus innings. Aaron Judge hit his Major League-leading 29th homer to tie Joe DiMaggio's Yankees rookie record, and Ji-Man Choi slugged a two-run blast in his Bombers debut before All-Star hopeful Didi Gregorius slammed a two-run double to in the fifth.
That damage all came off Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, who permitted six runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales hit back-to-back homers off Pineda in the third inning, and Pillar added a solo shot in the fourth to build Toronto's early lead. Betances has taken the loss in three of his past four outings, allowing 10 walks and seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings (23.62 ERA).
"I feel like I'm not consistent with my mechanics right now, and it shows by the walks that I've had," Betances said. "When there's a runner on first, I'm trying to go quick, and my timing is just not there right now. I find that my stuff is there but the timing in my delivery is not there, and it's causing me to fall behind guys and walk guys."
It was just the fourth win in 13 games for the Blue Jays, who are rumored to be considering selling off pieces of their roster as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. Toronto has picked up back-to-back victories for the first time since June 18-19, and the winning will have to continue if the club wants to avoid becoming sellers.
"If we're going to make a run at this, we have to beat teams like this," Estrada said. "This was a huge series. We took two out of three, and everybody played really well. … Things are turning. They are turning for everybody. Even myself, they're going to turn."
• Estrada looks to clear head over break
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sticking with Estrada: New York had cut the lead to a run in the bottom of the fifth when Estrada loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a Judge single. Estrada got the second out of the inning when Gary Sanchez popped out, but he wasn't so lucky in the next at-bat. Despite lefty Aaron Loup being warmed up, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons stuck with Estrada, and the move did not work out. Gregorius lined a double to the corner in right field as two runs came around to score and New York briefly took a 6-5 lead.
"He got Sanchez, and I've called him Houdini many times," Gibbons said. "I've seen him get out of those jams. He was cruising along, it was a tough fifth inning, but I love to give starters a chance, man, Those are your guys."
Respect for the Judge: Before Betances' eighth-inning meltdown, New York had an opportunity to reclaim the lead in the seventh as Tyler Wade worked a leadoff walk. Brett Gardner opted to drop a two-strike sacrifice bunt that advanced Wade to second base, but it gave Gibbons an opening to have Loup intentionally walk Judge, drawing a loud chorus of boos from the Stadium crowd. Danny Barnes struck out Sanchez swinging and retired Gregorius on a fly ball to right field.
Walk this way: Betances' erratic command has become cause for concern in the Yankees' clubhouse. He threw just nine of 27 pitches for strikes in Wednesday's outing, including 10 straight out of the zone. When Betances finally pumped a fastball past Jose Bautista for a called strike, the crowd of 38,691 cheered.
"Obviously, you hear it when you're in a tough spot like that," Betances said. "You try to block them out, but they're ecstatic because I threw strikes here and there. You don't want to be in that position. I put myself in a tough spot, and I put my team in a bad spot."
"Our best against their best, and our best won." -- Gibbons, on closer Roberto Osuna striking out Aaron Judge with a runner on base in the bottom of the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Smoak and Morales hit back-to-back homers in the third inning. It marked the third time this season that a pair of switch-hitters hit back-to-back homers. Smoak and Morales previously did it against the Rays on May 5 at St. Petersburg, while Cleveland's Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor had the other on May 6 at Kansas City.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will return home on Thursday to open a four-game series against the first-place Astros. Lefty Francisco Liriano (4-4, 5.66 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Liriano has allowed five earned runs in two of his past three outings, but on a more positive note, he has gone six innings in back-to-back starts.
Yankees: Following an off-day on Thursday, the Yankees return to action on Friday as they open a three-game series with the Brewers at Yankee Stadium. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.62 ERA) will look to continue a career-long six-start unbeaten streak and a four-start winning streak as he takes the hill for the 7:05 p.m. ET contest.
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