TORONTO — Masahiro Tanaka, a superb postseason pitcher in his Yankees career, hasn’t quite reached his typical late-season form. And the clock is ticking.
Tanaka, coming off an unimpressive four-inning outing Sunday in Boston, wasn’t especially good in his five innings in the Yankees’ 6-5, 12-inning loss to the Blue Jays Friday night in front of 23,915 at Rogers Centre.
Nor were many of his teammates, who committed two errors in an overall sloppy game in which Adam Ottavino balked home the tying run in the seventh. Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette won it in the 12th with a leadoff homer against Tyler Lyons, the Yankees’ sixth pitcher of the night.
Former Met Wilmer Font, the Blue Jays’ ninth pitcher, got the win with two scoreless, hitless innings in which he struck out three. After taking a 5-3 lead with five runs in the fifth, the Yankees (97-52) did not score again. Both the Astros and Dodgers won, cutting the Yankees’ lead over both teams to one game in the battle for MLB’s best record.
Tanaka, who allowed four runs and eight hits against the Red Sox, did the same against the Jays, which pushed his season ERA to 4.60. He said of the sloppy play behind him: “That can never be an excuse. That’s part of baseball. Obviously, if you make those plays, they’re easy outs, but if you look on the flip side, they make those tough plays and they get tough outs for you. It’s all part of baseball.”
He added, “Overall, the stuff was good. Fastball command, movement on the offspeed stuff, I think was good. Just couldn’t really hold them down when I needed to.”
Former Ward Melville star Anthony Kay, traded from the Mets to the Jays in the Marcus Stroman deal, allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 1⁄3 innings in his second MLB start. “Good arm, a guy that has really good life on his fastball,” Aaron Boone said of Kay beforehand. “I haven’t seen a lot of him. Hopefully our guys can go make it tough on him.”
Kay, who struck out eight Rays on Saturday in his debut, took a 3-0 lead into the fifth before the Yankees knocked him from the game with a five-run inning. Two inherited runners scored on Gio Urshela’s two-run single off righty Jason Adam, snapping a 3-3 tie.
With the score tied at 5-5, singles by Bichette and Cavan Biggio put runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth, but Luis Cessa got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead in the second when Randal Grichuk hammered a 1-and-0 splitter that settled belt-high over the middle of the plate for his 26th homer.
With a man on first and two outs in the fourth, Tanaka hung a full-count pitch to Reese McGuire, who belted it off the top of the wall in center for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead. Teoscar Hernandez then sent one to the shortstop side of second and Gleyber Torres made a nice stop and jump throw, but DJ LeMahieu couldn’t quite dig it out of the dirt. That allowed McGuire to come around to make it 3-0.
The Yankees got to Kay in the fifth. Gardner led off with a double and Clint Frazier inside-outed one down the rightfield line for an RBI double that made it 3-1. Grichuk’s wild throw from right allowed Frazier to go to third on the play and Austin Romine extended his recent hot stretch to 12-for-25 with an RBI single. Romine eventually scored on Luke Voit’s fielder’s-choice grounder to tie it at 3-3.
Bichette doubled and scored on Biggio’s single in the bottom of the fifth, and Ottavino’s balk allowed the tying run to score in the seventh. It was the second balk of his career (the other was in 2013).
“That’s the first one of that kind I’ve ever had,’’ he said. “I do that step-off, no-throw to first quite a bit. I just, when I spun, I put my foot down in the wrong spot, so it was just kind of a physical error there.”