The Yankees lost their third straight game to the Blue Jays, but their tempers -- and sense of humor -- remained intact even as their AL East lead over Toronto dwindled to 11/2 games.
The Blue Jays earned a 2-0 victory Sunday, beating Masahiro Tanaka with two home runs: Josh Donaldson's first-inning drive into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center and Jose Bautista's fourth-inning blast that smashed off the facing of the second deck in leftfield. That homer left a lasting impression -- especially on the head of Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner.
As is tradition in many ballparks, Yankees fans throw opposing home run balls back. This time it hit Gardner on the top right side of his head, leaving a welt that was visible during his postgame interview.
"Bump, but it's all good," Gardner said. He acknowledged the potential danger, saying: "Sure. It doesn't matter if the ball's coming in from the stands or the pitcher or whoever; you know a baseball's a hard object, so fortunately, it hit me where it did . . . I got a hard head, so it's all good."
A Yankees spokesman said a 15-year-old fan threw the ball and was issued a warning, and that he and his family were very apologetic. The spokesman said the Yankees do not plan to make any general announcement before games directing fans to refrain from throwing back home run balls.
In the ninth inning, Mark Teixeira had a much closer interaction with a fan when he tried to pursue a foul ball headed for the stands to the left of the Yankees' dugout. As Teixeira dived into the seats in an unsuccessful attempt to catch the ball, the fan ran into him, and although Teixeira was not prevented from making the catch, he bristled at the fan.
Teixeira was angry at that time but not so much later. While discussing his brush with the fan and Gardner's injury, he said in jest: "We need to tell the fans you can insult but you cannot assault. We know you're upset. We lost three in a row. We're sorry. But just keep it to insults, not assaults."
In winning their eighth straight game -- and sweeping a series of at least three games at the Stadium for the first time since 2003 -- the Blue Jays extended the Yankees' scoreless streak to 26 innings.
The Yankees got only three hits, all off winning pitcher Marco Estrada, who went 61/3 innings. They batted .151 in the series (14-for-93) and are hitting .163 in the last five games (25-for-153). They have scored four runs in that span after totaling 90 in the previous 10 games.
"We definitely took a punch this weekend, and good teams punch back," Alex Rodriguez said. "We've taken punches before and the season's never a straight line. There's going to be peaks and valleys. There's going to be some challenges along the way, and for us, it's all about the way we respond that matters."
Gardner added: "It's three games tighter than it was, whatever it was before that. They obviously picked up three games on us, obviously [are] within a couple of games of us. They got a good team, we got a good team. It will be an exciting six or seven weeks the last little piece of the season. Hopefully, we can swing the bats better than we have the last few days."
Teixeira said the recent losses are not the result of complacency. "We're never comfortable,'' he said. "I think when you are comfortable, that's when you really let your guard down and don't play well. This isn't going to be comfortable the rest of the way. We have to fight for every win, and that's what we expect every single game."