After all the plaudits they received for being so aggressive before the trading deadline, acquiring stars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price among other useful players, the Blue Jays possibly received their greatest compliment Friday night. It came from the manager of the Yankees, who said after his team's 2-1, 10-inning loss, "They're very similar to us."
That is music to Toronto's ears, considering the Blue Jays are chasing the Yankees and have not made the postseason since 1993. It is the sort of thing the Blue Jays hoped to hear when they fortified an already powerful Muscle Beach lineup with Tulowitzki, the brightest star on the market. They figured they would be able to slug it out with the best of them, and they proved Friday night that they can play long ball even when a pitchers' duel has broken out.
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Jose Bautista's 10th-inning home run to leftfield against hard-throwing but inexperienced reliever Branden Pinder made the AL East race feel like, well, a race. The Yankees' lead over Toronto was cut to 3½ games despite another solid start by Nathan Eovaldi, who remained unbeaten this season at Yankee Stadium (4-0) and this summer (6-0 with a 2.87 ERA in nine starts beginning June 20).
But the Blue Jays proved to be the Yankees' equal all night. R.A. Dickey was stellar through his seven innings, vexing the Yankees with knuckleballs, just as Boston's Steven Wright had two nights earlier. "It's like hitting a butterfly," Girardi said.
Each side had a player hit his 30th homer: The Jays' Josh Donaldson blasted an opposite-field shot in the first and Mark Teixeira answered in the second (after a nearly four-minute review to determine that a fan did not interfere with it after losing his watch in the attempt).
Bautista decided it with his 25th homer, giving a win to Brett Cecil (3-4), a save opportunity to Roberto Osuna and the first career decision to Pinder. "Trying to go inside,'' he said of the 1-and-2 pitch. "It just cut on me a little bit. I would like to have got it more inside, but I didn't." When asked about his strategy, Pinder said, "Just get ahead, throw strikes. I'm not going to change my approach. I mean, they're all just hitters in the box."
The thing is, the Blue Jays' hitters have produced more runs than any other major-league team. They are stronger and probably more confident now with Tulowitzki. Although he went 0-for-4, it might not be a coincidence that his new team is 9-0 in games he has started.
Friday night was his most auspicious appearance at Yankee Stadium since July 27, 2014, when he showed up in the stands for a Yankees-Blue Jays game, presumably to see his hero, Derek Jeter. At the time, Jeter said, "Maybe he was here to watch Toronto."
Toronto is a team to watch now. Said Girardi, "They have that ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark up and down their lineup."
As do the Yankees. "We have a lot of baseball to play before we start talking about October," Brett Gardner said. "They've obviously got a really good team, but I like our team too."
Dellin Betances, who put out a bases-loaded brushfire in the seventh, said: "They've always had power hitters and I think adding Donaldson in the offseason was huge for them, and now Tulowitzki. You can't give in. You've always got to make pitches, no matter what. Sometimes they bring the best out in you.
"It's definitely a great lineup, even the bottom half. Those guys have been producing," he said, adding one last kudo: "It's going to be a battle."