TORONTO — CC Sabathia impressively turned back the clock Saturday afternoon, resembling his former ace-self with seven shutout innings.
But the Yankees offense made it three straight games in which it resembled its mostly inept self from the first part of the season.
And so, when Jose Bautista crushed a two-out, three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, the Yankees’ fate was sealed, sending them to a third consecutive shutout loss, this one 3-0 to the Blue Jays in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of at Rogers Centre.
“It’s hard to explain,” Joe Girardi said of the 27-inning scoreless streak in which his team is 14-for-92 (.152), including 6-for-57 (.105) the first two games of this series. “We just didn’t have many opportunities today.”
The Yankees (79-75), who managed one hit over seven innings against former Patchogue-Medford HS star Marcus Stroman, and three hits overall, fell to 2-7 on this 11-game trip that has all but eliminated them from playoff contention.
They’ve lost 10 of 13 since a seven-game winning streak put them firmly in the mix for the AL’s final wild-card spot two weeks ago.
The Yankees, shut out three straight games for the first time since 1975, have not scored a run since the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Rays.
“Whatever we’re doing, switch it up,” said Mark Teixeira, who sat a second straight game with a sore neck, though he did come on as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. “If we’re trying to be patient, be more aggressive. If you’re trying to be aggressive, be patient. But whatever we’re doing right now, it’s not working.”
Sabathia, who came in 1-2 over his last six starts but with a 3.09 ERA in that span, allowed four hits over seven innings, lowering his season ERA to 4.02.
“You want to keep putting up zeroes and hopefully we’ll be able to break through,” Sabathia said of his mindset as the scoreless game progressed. “Their guy did a great job keeping us off balance and we just couldn’t push a run across.”
Stroman entered the afternoon 9-9 with a 4.50 ERA, having lost four straight decisions and not having won since Aug. 14. The 25-year-old righthander allowed one hit and three walks and struck out five in keeping the Blue Jays (85-69) in the first wild-card spot.
“He’s got great movement on his pitches and we weren’t able to do anything with (them),” Girardi said.
Clippard, who allowed one earned run over his first 21 appearances as a Yankee but has now allowed one run in three of his last four outings, retired the first two batters of the eighth. But Josh Donaldson singled and Edwin Encarnacion walked, bringing up Bautista. The rightfielder fell behind 2-and-0 before lasering one over the wall in left for his 20th homer of the season.
“It was a fastball right down the middle,” Clippard said. “If I get it where I want to, I don’t think he’s going to do what he did there. Just kind of left that one over.”
Roberto Osuna pitched a scoreless ninth for his 35th save.
The Yankees best scoring chance came in the fourth. Brett Gardner led off with a walk and, with Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, went to second on a passed ball. Ellsbury, however, struck out, as did Gary Sanchez (0-for-4, two strikeouts). Didi Gregorius flied to center to end the inning.
The Yankees got their first runner in scoring position in the top of the eighth when Ronald Torreyes tripled off Jason Grilli with two outs. But Billy Butler, pinch hitting for Tyler Austin and 8-for-18 over his first six games as a Yankee, fouled off three straight pitches before striking out swinging on a 93-mph fastball.
“We just haven’t gotten the big hit when we’ve needed it,” Butler said.