Sunday, April 23, 2023

Gausman & Guerrero, Jr. Lead Way As Toronto Takes Series From Yankees

Kevin Gausman firing one past Aaron Judge in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Toronto Blue Jays, backed by a great start from Kevin Gausman and home runs from Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Daulton Varsho, beat the Yankees, 5-1, on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

The Jays took two out of three this weekend to win the series, and the Yankees finish their homestand with a record of 5-5. Overall, the Yankees and Jays are both 13-9, tied for third place in the ultra competitive American League East, in which all five teams have winning records.

The Yankees were the last team to lose a series this season in Major League Baseball, a fact not lost on their Manager, Aaron Boone. 

“I am aware of it; you know I don’t get that caught up into it,” Boone said in his pregame press conference on Sunday morning. You know we’re trying to put our best foot forward every day, and that’s kind of where the focus, you know, and you’re up against a good team today and try to win a series against a really good pitcher, so you know, of course, you know, there’s that old cliche, and I think, as baseball players, we always want to win series, right, but each day’s a new challenge, and if you keep playing well and keep developing guys and keep finding out, again, right now, as more and more people are getting some opportunities with some guys out. You know, it’s an opportunity for them to not only be a part of the mix now, but moving forward. I don’t get caught up in so much defining ‘we won this series,’ it’s about winning a game today, and that’s kind of where the focus lies.”

Gausman definitely showed what a “really good pitcher” he is, as he threw seven shutout innings, and allowed just three hits and no walks, with 11 strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first eight Yankees he faced until Isiah Kiner-Falefa lined one just over the glove of Guerrero, Jr., at first base for a double with two out in the third inning. Anthony Volpe struck out to end the inning, one of three K's on the day for the rookie.

The only other Yankees' hits were a leadoff double from DJ LeMahieu in the fifth, and Gausman responded by striking out the side; and in the seventh, when LeMahieu got a two-out single before Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier made a leaping grab at the warning track of a blast from Oswaldo Cabrera.

Boone said of what Gausman did to stymie the Yankees hitters, "I mean, what he normally does, the split's obviously a great pitch for him. I thought he stayed a little bit unpredictable with it, and used his fastball really well in different counts, but yeah, we just weren't able to really solve that split today."

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt was just as good as Gausman early on, as he retired the first 13 Toronto batters he faced before Matt Chapman doubled with one out in the fifth.

Schmidt then worked around a walk to Whit Merrifield, and retired Danny Jensen on a fly ball to center to get out of the fifth, but then it turned in the sixth inning.

After Kiermaier grounded to second base for the first out, and then Volpe couldn't handle a hot shot from George Springer, and he was charged with an error.

Bo Bichette then bounced one to third base for a force out for the second out of the frame, but Guerrero, Jr., then lined one into the left field corner for a two-run home run, his fifth of the season.

Guerrero, Jr., who, on Friday, nearly started a bench clearing brawl after being hit by a pitch and then after the game saying he never wanted to play for the Yankees, heard the jeers as he rounded the bases, and was taunting the fans as he approached third base, in his typical fashion.

Daulton Varsho then hit a liner to right field for a solo home run to make it back-to-back dingers and, instantly, a 3-0 Toronto lead.

That was all for Schmidt, who is still seeking his first win of the season. His final line was: 6 2/3 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 runs, 0 earned, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts.

This by far was Schmidt's best start of the season, and Boone said of what worked for him afterwards, "I mean, I thought he threw the ball great, obviously, went through that lineup a couple times, really electric, really aggressive with his sinker, so I thought he threw the ball great. You know, obviously, a couple of mistakes got him there, but overall a really strong outing for him."

Toronto tacked on another run against Yankees reliever Michael King in the seventh when Whit Merrifield doubled, and then came into score on one by Danny Jansen.

In the ninth, Matt Chapman led off with a single against Ian Hamilont, and he came into score when and Jansen beat out a grounder in at first base to prevent a double play that would have ended the inning, and allow Chapman to score and make it 5-0 Toronto.

Anthony Rizzo hit a solo home run, his fifth of the season, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to make it 5-1 and spark a Yankee rally against Adam Cimber. Gleyber Torres and Lemahieu followed with singles, but Oswaldo Cabrera lined out to third base to end it.

The Yankees begin a seven-game road trip on Monday night, with three at the Minnesota Twins, whom they split a four-game set at The Stadium last weekend, starting on Monday night. They will then head to Texas for four games with the Rangers beginning on Thursday night.

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