The Yankees will be the first to acknowledge they don't expect runaway victories. With their young piecemeal pitching rotation and their patchwork lineup, they hope daily to keep it close and win in the end. They are good at that, too, entering Sunday with a major league-best 33-21 record in games decided by one or two runs.
What that also means, though, is that every play, every day is important. And they can't afford to allow walkaways, like the lead Jose Bautista took in the ninth inning that led to the Blue Jays' winning run.
The Yankees had come back to tie three times, but they just couldn't do it a fourth in a 5-4 defeat at Yankee Stadium.
It hurt, losing to a team that is now a game ahead of them in the division and wild-card races. Mostly it hurt that David Robertson allowed Bautista to take a walking lead off first base, which helped the Blue Jay slugger steal second and score on Dioner Navarro's two-out, two-strike single in the ninth.
"I take this one tough because we did such a good job of coming back. It stinks that I didn't make better quality pitches and didn't do a better job of holding runners on or else we might be out there right now, trying to get a win," said Robertson, the closer, whose near flawless pitching and crunchtime attention to detail have been among the main reasons the Yankees have endured many injuries and few under-achievements.
"Today just wasn't our day," he said, referring to himself and Dellin Betances, who gave up a run in the same game for the first time all season.
Oddly, Betances allowed his run in the eighth because he tried too hard to hold a runner on first -- a two-base throwing error on a pickoff attempt -- and Robertson gave up the winning run because he didn't try hard enough.
All kinds of things had happened to bring the game to the ninth at 4-4, including back-to-back homers in the fifth by Chase Headley (his first as a Yankee) and Francisco Cervelli (his first since April 25, 2013) and a stellar defensive play at third base in the ninth by Headley, limiting Bautista to a fielder's choice instead of a double.
"When two good teams in a division play each other, things happen like that. That's the game of baseball," said Yankees rightfielder Zelous Wheeler, who had his own peak-and-valley day. He got doubled off first in the third inning on a short pop to the second baseman, but atoned by making a strong throw that retired Dan Johnson at the plate to end the fourth.
Anyway, Robertson entered after Carlos Beltran tied the score with a two-out single in the eighth. The closer seemed fine, what with two outs and Bautista on first. He had only four previous steals all season.
"I just let him slip from my memory there for a second. It's all it took," the pitcher said. "To be honest with you, I didn't think he'd really be going. I guess I gave him an easy time to run."
Bautista took second easily and came home on what Joe Girardi called Navarro's "jam shot" to right-centerfield.
All told, it was a good 7-3 home stand for the Yankees. But it reminded them that no day will be easy.
"This is baseball, it's a hard game," Robertson said. "Lately we've been playing a lot of tight games but we've been winning a lot of them. Hopefully, at some point, we'll get some of those laugher games but until it happens, we'll keep grinding and keep trying to win games however we can. We'll take anything at this point."