TORONTO - It was the Yankees' misfortune Monday night to face a team that didn't hit the self-destruct button by pulling its ace pitcher after five innings.
No, the Blue Jays permitted lefthander David Price, though his pitch count ballooned early, to last seven shutout innings, which helped send the Yankees to a 4-2 setback in an AL East showdown in front of a noisy sellout crowd of 47,648 at Rogers Centre.
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The Yankees (82-67), limited to two hits by Price, who retired the final 14 batters he faced, fell 31/2 games behind the Blue Jays (86-64) with 13 games left.
"I think they're as important games as we've played all year," Joe Girardi said of the next two games here, "when you talk about winning the division."
Price (17-5, 2.34) walked one and struck out seven.
Adam Warren, making his second start since being plucked out of the bullpen for the rotation and on a pitch count of 80-85, threw 35 pitches in a three-run first that put his team in a quick hole.
Warren (6-7) allowed those three runs and five hits in 31/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five, throwing 82 pitches.
"I felt like I was trying to do too much in the first [inning]," Warren said. "Trying to make the best pitch in the world instead of trusting my stuff."
Girardi's phalanx of five relievers pitched reasonably well in relief of Warren, allowing one run the rest of the way.
That run didn't come until the seventh when righty Branden Pinder loaded the bases with none out and Andrew Bailey allowed a one-out sacrifice fly to former Yankees catcher Russell Martin, which made it 4-0.
The Toronto bullpen, which has had its share of meltdowns late in games against the Yankees over the years, made things interesting again. Aaron Sanchez, who replaced Price to start the eighth, walked Didi Gregorius and gave up a single to Dustin Ackley, putting runners at the corners. In came lefty Brett Cecil, who allowed Jacoby Ellsbury's second hit of the game, a single to center that made it 4-1. But Brett Gardner took a full-count curveball for strike three, which he thought was high and disputed the point with plate umpire Greg Gibson.
Did Girardi think it was high? "I do but there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "Maybe it changes the complexion of the inning but we still had our opportunities and we didn't get it done."
Cecil then struck out Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann, both on curveballs as well, to end the inning. "Cecil's been unbelievable and has a hell of a curveball and tonight he showed that," A-Rod said.
Roberto Osuna, who took the loss in the Blue Jays' ninth-inning collapse Saturday against the Red Sox, allowed a two-out homer to Greg Bird in the ninth, which made it 4-2, but still earned his 17th save.
The Yankees' best chance against Price came in a 29-pitch third in which they loaded the bases with one out. Price got out of it by striking out Rodriguez on a full-count, 93-mph fastball to end a nine-pitch at-bat and inducing a flyou by McCann. After the one-out walk to Gardner earlier in the inning, Price began his march of 14 straight retired.
"Price was good tonight," A-Rod said of the lefty, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 19 of his last 23 outings and has allowed six hits or fewer in nine of his 10 starts since his trade to Toronto. "When you face an elite pitcher you usually get one crack at him, and we had it and we came up short tonight."