Chad Green not only came up with the best start of his young career Monday night but arguably turned in the best outing of any Yankees starter this season.
Dominating the hard-hitting Blue Jays from the beginning, Green took a perfect game into the fifth inning and allowed two hits in six innings in a 1-0 victory in front of 36,015 at the Stadium.
Armed with a nasty slider he’s been refining in the minors, Green struck out a career-high 11, including the last five batters he faced, and walked none.
“We loved his arm. That’s why we traded for him,” Joe Girardi said of the offseason deal in which the Yankees sent lefty reliever Justin Wilson to the Tigers for Green and Luis Cessa.
Green, 25, has been brilliant as a starter in the minors but was 1-2 with a 7.50 ERA in four previous big-league starts.
“I caught him a lot in Triple-A,” rookie catcher Gary Sanchez said through his translator. “This is what I’m used to seeing from him. He had really good command of his pitches.”
Green said familiarity with Sanchez, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and is 13-for-39 (.333) since his promotion in early August, was a big help.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Gary,” he said. “The comfort level I have with him, because I’ve thrown to him a lot this year, I thought that was big.”
Rookie call-up Aaron Judge, making his third straight start in rightfield, had two hits, including an RBI double in the fourth.
The Yankees (61-57) matched their high-water mark at four games over .500 and remained 4 1⁄2 games behind Boston for the second AL wild-card spot.
Though lacking a clever nickname that could end up on a T-shirt, the triumvirate at the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen again proved effective. Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect seventh and Adam Warren a perfect eighth after Green was perfect in five of his six innings.
Dellin Betances struggled with his command in the ninth, walking .155-hitting Josh Thole after getting ahead 0-and-2. After Devon Travis fouled out to first — with Mark Teixeira deftly using his body to box out any fan who might have been seeking a souvenir — Josh Donaldson singled on a 3-and-1 pitch to put runners at the corners. But swinging at the first pitch, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground smash at Chase Headley, who started a 5-4-3 double play to end it. “Dellin’s been so good all year,” Headley said. “It’s fun to be able to pick him up a little bit.”
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (8-13) allowed one run and four hits in five innings for the Blue Jays (67-52). He walked four and struck out six.
It was a night of frustration at the plate for the Yankees, who had eight hits and seven walks but were 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14. They had runners at second and third with one out in the fourth after Judge’s RBI double and loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but could not take advantage.
“When you score one run,” Teixeira said, “you don’t expect to win a game like that.” The Yankees had been 0-20 this season when scoring one run.
Green was perfect through 4 1⁄3 innings before Troy Tulo witzki singled hard to left. Darrell Ceciliani followed with a double, putting runners at second and third. Green, however, struck out Justin Smoak swinging at a slider and Melvin Upton Jr. looking at a fastball, the start of his five straight Ks.
With Nathan Eovaldi out for an undetermined amount of time and Luis Severino back in the minors, there is an opportunity for Green to seize a rotation spot, something he is very aware of.
“You’re always playing for the next day,” he said. “I guess every time I run out there, it’s almost like a tryout. Just trying to take it day by day. Whatever happens happens.”