TORONTO — The Yankees’ chances of winning the AL East title, already a long shot, all but went kaput Friday night.
And the ugly 8-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre did something else: It very much put into question whether the Yankees — if they win the American League wild-card game they are all but certain to host Oct. 3 — can afford to start Masahiro Tanaka in a Division Series.
The righthander, prone to the long ball all season, allowed three home runs Friday night, including a blow-it-open grand slam by Ryan Goins, in 5 2⁄3 innings.
Tanaka (12-12, 4.94 ERA), who has allowed 35 homers in 171 1⁄3 innings in 29 starts, gave up eight runs (seven earned) and six hits.
The last of Tanaka’s 95 pitches, a hanging slider to Goins — who had been 0-for-22 against him — resulted in a two-out grand slam that made it 8-1 in the sixth. Teoscar Hernandez and Russell Martin also homered.
“You look at everything,” Joe Girardi said of the impact those numbers could have on an ALDS rotation. “But I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We still haven’t clinched anything.”
The Yankees (85-68) will do that soon enough with the wild card — their magic number was reduced to one when the Angels and Rangers lost Friday night — but they fell four games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox with nine games left.
The Yankees had won 14 of their last 18 games, but Toronto righthander Marco Estrada held them in check. Estrada (10-8, 4.70) allowed one run, three hits and three walks in seven innings.
Aaron Judge went 2-for-2 with two walks, hitting his 46th homer — his seventh in his last 11 games — and a long double. Otherwise, it was a futile night by an offense that finished with three hits — none after Judge’s double to lead off the sixth — went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and lost one of those runners when Todd Frazier got caught by the hidden-ball trick.
“Bonehead play by me,” Frazier said.
Girardi, pointing to that and a first-inning error by Starlin Castro that contributed to an unearned run, didn’t disagree. “Those are mental mistakes and those do bother you,” he said. “Those things can’t happen.”
After Judge launched one 469 feet to left in the first inning, the Blue Jays (72-82) tied it in the bottom half.
Hernandez singled and Josh Donaldson followed with a slow roller to third. Frazier threw to second in time to get Hernandez but Castro failed to catch it, with the error putting runners on first and third. Tanaka struck out Justin Smoak before Jose Bautista — a pending free agent likely playing in his last home series as a Blue Jay — made it 1-1 with a chopper to third.
“I just tried to be too quick [with the double play],” Castro said. “Catch the ball and take one out.”
Tanaka retired the Blue Jays in order in a seven-pitch second, leading to Todd Frazier’s “bonehead” moment. He led off with a double to right and, after Clint Frazier popped to short, Jacoby Ellsbury lasered one to right. Bautista made a running catch at the warning track and threw the ball in to Goins. The shortstop faked throwing the ball back to Estrada, transferred it to his glove and, with his back to Frazier, tagged him out when he briefly stepped off the bag.
“Could have changed the game,” Frazier said. “If I stay on the base, we’ve got Judge up and you never know what happens. Everything changed from there.”
Toronto then took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half when Hernandez crushed a 1-and-2 splitter off the facing of the third deck in left — in Judge territory — for his third homer. Martin’s two-run blast in the fourth made it 4-1.
Masahiro Tanaka HRs allowed
This season: 35