Going into last night's game, I expected Ivan Nova returning to the rotation in place of Masahiro Tanaka to be the biggest thing working against the Yankees. Turns out it was everything else. Nova actually pitched well but got bested by Marcus Stroman and a sad showing by the lineup to drop the Bombers' final game against the Blue Jays in the 2015 regular season and deal a major blow to their division title hopes.
Nova was in trouble early, putting runners on second and third with a single and a double in the top of the 1st. He worked out of the jam with big strikeouts of Jose Bautista and Justin Smoak though, and those outs really set the tone for the rest of his night. He wasn't perfect and he put a runner on in almost every inning, but Nova's stuff looked better than it had in a while and he was able to locate his fastball better in big spots. He struck out 6 and walked 2 in what was really 5.2 shutout innings and then watched as James Pazos and Caleb Cotham failed to get the 3rd out of the 6th inning and let Toronto get on the board.
That first run proved to be the only one Toronto would need. Stroman took the Yankee lineup behind the woodshed and slapped it around like a child. It was only his third start of the season, second against the Yankees, and he looked like a much different pitcher than the one they saw a few weeks ago. He had his fastball moving all over the place, his slider was sharp and drew a lot of swings and misses, and the Yankees were never able to put anything of substance together against him. Closest they came was the top of the 5th when Greg Bird singled to lead off, got eliminated on Chase Headley's GIDP, and Dustin Ackely doubled to deep center in the next at-bat. Who knows what could have happened on that hit if somebody still would have been on base.
With Andrew Miller unavailable, Joe was limited in his bullpen options and it seemed like his plan was to try and save Wilson and Betances for the 8th and 9th. That led him to go with Andrew Bailey in the bottom of the 7th against the heart of the Blue Jay order and that turned out not to be a good move. Josh Donaldson hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a Jose Bautista groundout. The Yanks intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion and Bailey made that work by striking out Justin Smoak. With 2 outs, 2 on, and strikes against Russell Martin, Bailey threw a fastball that caught too much of the plate. Martin crushed it for a killer of a 3-run home run and the game was all but over. No runs for the offense in the 8th and 9th, Wilson and Betances never saw the field.
- 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K for Nova. Threw 110 pitches and got 11 whiffs on his 70 strikes. Best he's looked in a while.
- Top 5 spots in the order combined to go 2-18 with a walk and 4 strikeouts.
- I don't know what to say about Joe's bullpen decisions last night. Did I like the call to go to Bailey? Not really. I would have preferred Wilson there to try and keep it a 1-run game. I would have ridden him for as long as I could. But I also understand the move to go Bailey after the tie was broken. The real bad call was going to Pazos and Cotham in the 6th, but what other options did Joe have there? Shreve is clearly out of the circle of trust and justifiably so, and Joe isn't going to use Betances there when he doesn't have Miller. When almost all of your options are crappy ones, you're mostly likely going to have crappy results.
- Brett Gardner is 4-39 with 0 XBH, 5 BB, and 9 K in his last 10 games. He' hitting a cool .200/.299/.300 since the ASB.
- Didn't mean much in the grand scheme, but it was good to see Bryan Mitchell work a clean inning in the 8th. He's been shaky ever since he got beaned.