The incessant pecking that the Yankees are starting to feel on their backsides belongs to that of a young Blue Jays team that further proved on Wednesday that they will be a problem in the AL East for years to come.
Bo Bichette socked a majestic opposite-field walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, his second of the afternoon, to lift Toronto (6-6) to a 5-4 victory over the Yankees (5-7) to spoil a two home-run day for Aaron Judge and take the rubber game of the three-game series.
Bichette’s first of the day — he went 3-for-5 — helped the Blue Jays build a 3-1 lead that was ultimately squandered before they drew level and four runs apiece in the sixth inning to set up the young star in the making’s heroics against Chad Green to end it.
“We had a hard time containing him today and he got us there at the end,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees’ offense didn’t do much to threaten the Blue Jays down the stretch, collecting just two hits in their final 18 at-bats on Wednesday — putting a pitching staff that’s already under the microscope on less-than-ideal footing. Granted, Aaron Boone’s lineup was missing plenty of the normal big bats, including Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, and Clint Frazier.
“It’s a little surprising,” Boone said of his team’s offensive woes Wednesday. “Eventually, the cream is going to rise to the top.”
Meanwhile, Corey Kluber didn’t ease anxieties surrounding the rest of the Yankees’ starting rotation not named Gerrit Cole, as the other four Bronx starters have struggled in the early parts of this season.
A rocky start saw him quickly concede an early, slim advantage created by Judge’s first round-tripper of the day — a solo shot over the left-field wall.
He yielded a pair of home runs from the second and third innings, the first a two-run no-doubter off the bat of Alejandro Kirk before Bichette showed off his raw power, muscling an opposite-field solo shot over the right-center field wall that left the bat at 105.7 mph to put Toronto up 3-1.
The Yankees would pick Kluber up in the fourth, plating three to regain the lead.
Judge bashed his second homer of the afternoon, a 111.9 mph bomb to dead-center to pull New York within one. They moved in front thanks to Gio Urshela, who knocked a two-run single scoring Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner with two outs in the frame.
Kluber would last just four innings, though, going 77 pitches while allowing those three earned runs on six hits while striking out four and walking two.
“I thought the stuff was fine. I thought he had to work really hard,” Boone said. “I feel like he’s continuing to get close to where he needs to be.”
The veteran righty didn’t seem too thrilled about getting the hook so early, though.
“I thought it was a step in the right direction,” Kluber said after two years of injury woes. “I’m just as frustrated as anyone with the results on the scoreboard… I can only pitch as long as they let me.”
After Jonathan Loaisiga got through the fifth inning that featured Cavan Biggio making the last out after making an errant turn off third base after a single to right got under the glove of Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ reliever gave up the lead — though it could’ve been much worse.
After getting a force out to cut down the tying run with the bases loaded for the first out of the inning, Loaisiga threw a wild pitch that bounced past Kyle Higashioka, allowing the tying run in Rowdy Tellez to score while moving the other ducks on the pond to second and third.
“We have to play better in every area,” Boone said. “There’s mistakes we’re making. When you’re not banging, you have to do the little things really well. That’s catch the ball, run the bases. Eventually, we’re going to start banging. We have a ton of confidence in our guys. In the meantime, when you’re not breaking games open, you have to play real clean.”