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Yankees' offense sputters in loss to Blue Jays

New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit returns

New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit returns to the dugout after he strikes out looking against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, July 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The mighty became pretty meek on Saturday at the Stadium.

The Yankees haven’t been shut out since June 2018 but came awfully close against the Blue Jays, dropping a 2-1 decision before 43,472. They were down to their last out and still scoreless when Aaron Judge singled off third baseman Brandon Drury's glove, driving in Aaron Hicks and moving DJ LeMahieu to third. But on a borderline 3-and-2 pitch, Luke Voit took a called third strike from Daniel Hudson to end the game.

That left the Yankees with three one-run losses in their last four games and a total of nine runs scored in that span.

“Out of 162 games, it’s going to happen at some point. It surprising it hasn’t yet,” Judge said of nearly getting blanked. “With this type of offense, with the way we get guys on base and we hit so well with runners on base this year — it’s pretty surprising.”

The Yankees last were shut out on June 30, 2018 in an 11-0 loss to Boston. Their streak of 172 games with at least one run scored is the fifth longest since 1900. This was only the second time in the streak that they went into the ninth inning without a run.

“That’s very rare,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We had our chances. I felt like we had a lot of baserunners and I thought we had some decent at-bats in big spots but just couldn’t break through today . . . More often than not, we are going to come through.”

The Yankees had eight hits — four by Judge and two by Brett Gardner — but were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.

As surprising as the lack of offense was the way Toronto slowed a team that entered the game averaging 5.7 runs. The Jays used six pitchers, in part because starter Clayton Richard was forced from the game after two innings by tightness in his left lat muscle. Nick Kingham, Joe Biagini, Tim Mayza, David Phelps and Hudson got the last 21 outs.

The pinnacle of frustration for the Yankees was the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth, with Randal Grichuk playing a key role each time.

In the Yankees’ fifth, they loaded the bases on Gardner’s one-out single, Judge’s two-out single and Voit's walk. Gary Sanchez followed by scorching a sinking line drive to centerfield, but Grichuk snared it just above the turf with a full-extension dive.

The Jays then scored their two runs in the sixth on three weak hits that just found holes, with Grichuk's the biggest.

With one out, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled to right through an overshifted infield and Cavan Biggio hit a blooper to left that fell between retreating shortstop Didi Gregorius and oncoming leftfielder Gardner. Adam Ottavino replaced starter J.A. Happ and struck out Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but the Jays executed a double steal and Grichuk got what Boone called “just enough of one.”

Ottavino threw a 95-mph two-seam fastball that bore in on Grichuk, who fought it off and hit a flare to rightfield that fell in front of Judge and behind retreating second baseman Gleyber Torres for a two-run single. Ottavino had allowed only six of 27 inherited runners to score before that hit.

Happ was charged with two runs in 5 1/3 innings but pitched far better than that. He allowed five hits — only one hit hard — walked one and struck out five. He has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts and two straight.

“Baseball is a funny game sometimes. I think I would say that was probably one of the best games I’ve thrown as far as execution and conviction. Physically as well,” Happ said. “We don’t get held down very often. We played hard. I think more often than not, we’re going to come out on top in those kinds of games.”

Hicks opened the ninth by drawing a five-pitch walk, and after getting ahead of Hudson 2-and-1, Torres took a weak swing at a pitch well out of the strike zone and wound up flying out on a 3-and-2 pitch. Gardner flied out on a 3-and-1 pitch for the second out, but Voit still thought the Yankees had a chance.

“With [Judge] and DJ coming up with two outs, I knew I’d have the opportunity to hit because they were going to get the job done,” he said. “DJ never goes 0-for-5, so you know he’d get a hit somehow. That’s what makes this team awesome — there’s always a chance.”

Two pitches later, the Yankees had their run, as LeMahieu grounded a sharp single up the middle and Drury couldn't backhand Judge's rocket grounder down the third-base line, deflecting it into foul territory.

Voit also got ahead 3-and-1, but with the count full, he took a 97-mph fastball that was close to the inside corner and close to the top of the strike zone. Voit began removing his equipment, thinking he had walked. Plate umpire Andy Fletcher thought otherwise.

“Even looking at the replay, he set up away and I know he misses up and in, I know his ball tails up and in,’’ Voit said. “He made the right call. It’s just frustrating to lose a game like that.”

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