TORONTO – If the Yankees don’t secure the top seed for the American League playoffs, their performance at Rogers Centre will be high on the list of reasons why.
Regardless of whether the Blue Jays have been good or bad, the Yankees have long struggled in this concrete and steel building with the retractable roof, and they did again this season.
Randal Grichuk, a come-from-nowhere Yankees-killer the last two seasons, homered twice, including a game-wrecking three-run shot in the fifth inning that helped send the Yankees to a 6-4 defeat in front of 22,562.
“It’s frustrating any time we lose a series like this,” said Aaron Judge, who had a short but amiable chat with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after being called out on a borderline pitch to end it. “We just couldn’t get the one big hit to knock them out. A team like this [Toronto], it’s young, they’re scrappy. They’re going to fight you to the very end, which you guys saw.”
The Yankees (98-53), who are tied with the Astros for the best record in the American League, finished the year 4-6 at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays (59-91), who entered this series having lost 11 of 15. The Yankees are 39-54 at Rogers Centre since the start of the 2010 season and have posted losing season records in this stadium nine of the last 10 years.
“Losing sucks, every time,” Aaron Boone said. “But a long season, it’s blinders on. We get an off day at home [Monday] and hopefully go put together a really good homestand starting Tuesday. You gotta flush these things, good and bad, every single day. It’s something we’ve done great all year.”
There were two overwhelming positives for the Yankees, as Jordan Montgomery and Dellin Betances made their 2019 debuts.
Montgomery, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 1, 2018, came on in the second. The lefthander allowed three runs and four hits, one of them Grichuk’s first homer of the game. Betances, out since late in spring training, struck out both hitters he faced in the fourth.
“I had a lot of guys in good counts and then I’d throw a loopy curveball instead of finishing it and spiking it,” Montgomery said. “I was ahead in a lot of counts, so I’m happy about that, but I’ve got to finish pitches."
Judge hit his 23rd homer, but it was an overall quiet day offensively as the Yankees finished this three-city trip at 6-4.
Grichuk hit an opposite-field homer in the third off Montgomery, then hit his three-run shot off Nestor Cortes Jr. to snap a 3-3 tie in the fifth. The Yankees got within 6-4 on an unearned run in the seventh and put runners at the corners with one out but could not get any closer.
Grichuk has 28 homers this season, eight of them – in 63 at-bats – against the Yankees. He has 15 RBIs in 16 games against them.
In the past two seasons, he has hit 13 home runs against the Yankees -- the most of any opponent -- in 114 at-bats and 32 games.
“Yeah, I don’t have anything,” Grichuk said of his success against the Yankees. “I’ve gotten good pitches over the plate, put some good swings on them. I feel pretty comfortable. We play them a lot, so we see them a lot, and as you get more at-bats, you get more and more comfortable.”
The Yankees have three more games against the Blue Jays next weekend at the Stadium, and, it goes without saying, could not be happier that those games will be someplace other than Rogers Centre.