Occasions such as this were exactly why the Blue Jays fortified an already powerful Muscle Beach lineup. In a big game to start a big series on baseball's biggest stage, they wanted to feel as if they could outslug the best of them.
Even when they were confronted with an unlikely pitchers' duel involving the major leagues' two top-scoring teams, the Blue Jays had the power when they needed it. Jose Bautista blasted a pitch from Branden Pinder into the leftfield seats in the top of the 10th to give his team a 2-1 win over the Yankees and make the AL East race look more like, well, a race. The Jays cut the Yankees' lead over them to 3½ games.
The setup for this series gained steam when the Blue Jays traded for Troy Tulowitzki, the biggest available star and one of the sport's best hitters. Tulowitzki was making his most conspicuous appearance at Yankee Stadium since July 27 of last year. Back then, he was in the stands, on a side trip from a doctor's visit in Philadelphia, watching the Yankees play -- coincidentally -- the Blue Jays.
At the time, he was seen as a potential replacement for Derek Jeter, whom Tulowitzki presumably was there to see. That day, Jeter said, "Maybe he was here to see Toronto."
Toronto definitely is a team to watch now after trading for the shortstop and Saturday's starting pitcher, David Price. The Jays are 9-0 in games started by Tulowitzki, a first in club history.
"We definitely feel that they've improved their club, but my focus has been the guys in our clubhouse. I've always felt that makes the most sense," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game.
Their immediate concern Friday night was figuring out how to hit a knuckleball, something they had done very little of against Steven Wright of the Red Sox on Wednesday night. This time it was R.A. Dickey who was stellar (seven innings, one run, six hits).
"I know Mr. Steinbrenner used to send in guys that threw knuckleballs for ," Girardi said. "But they're all so different. And from pitch to pitch, they're different. If you're facing a guy with a curveball and a slider, his curveball is going to be fairly consistent, his slider is going to be fairly consistent. A knuckleball is not."
Mark Teixeira had no problem with one of them. Leading off the second, he hit it just over the leftfield fence, requiring a nearly four-minute review to see if a fan had reached over to touch it. The ruling was that it was not a double but a home run (and that time flies, what with the fan losing his watcht). It was Teixeira's 30th, matching Josh Donaldson, who hit his 30th in the first inning. The latter now has one 30-homer season to Teixeira's nine.
Nathan Eovaldi had as much impact as anyone, though. He stifled the highest-scoring lineup in the major leagues until he was removed after a pair of weak grounders in the seventh -- a Teixeira error and a squib single toward third. Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances put out that brushfire, keeping Eovaldi unbeaten (4-0) at home and in the summer (6-0, 2.87 ERA since June 16).
Girardi said of his starter, who has pitched as well as anyone in the rotation and stood out in arguably his biggest game as a Yankee: "I'm really pleased with his work ethic, his preparation, his mental makeup, how he is always trying to get better, how he has really matured this year: the same guy every day when he comes to the ballpark, ready to work."