NEW YORK (AP) — Stingy pitching might just carry these Toronto Blue Jays into the playoffs.
Kevin Gausman tossed six shutout innings, outdueling Michael King as they traded strikeouts all night, and Toronto beat the New York Yankees 6-1 on Wednesday for its fifth consecutive victory.
“It’s just fun to be playing meaningful games,” Gausman said. “Every game matters right now and every win is one step closer to our goal.”
Locked in a heated pennant race, the Blue Jays scored five times in the final two innings and stayed a game ahead of Texas and Seattle for the second of three American League wild cards. Toronto hasn’t lost since getting swept at home in four games by the Rangers last week.
“A complete 360,” Gausman said. “Coming off the worst series of the year and then sweeping Boston and obviously coming here and winning the first two, it’s been night and day demeanor-wise, clubhouse energy.”
Spencer Horwitz had three RBIs, Bo Bichette drove in two runs and the Blue Jays drew five walks in the eighth from two relievers — including four in a row and two with the bases loaded.
“Guys were patient,” manager John Schneider said. “Loved the way they kind of kept passing the baton.”
That made a hard-luck loser of King (4-7), a converted reliever who set career highs across the board with 13 strikeouts over seven innings on 101 pitches in his seventh start this season. The lone run he allowed came on Bichette’s infield hit that glanced off his glove in the third, the last of three consecutive two-out singles by Toronto.
It was the most strikeouts for a Yankees pitcher since Gerrit Cole whiffed 14 against Minnesota on Sept. 7, 2022.
“Pretty special performance by him,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s exciting to see. Hopefully a glimpse of what’s to come.”
But without much offensive support, New York (76-76) dropped its third straight as its improbable postseason hopes keep dwindling away. The Yankees have mustered only four runs during their skid — and Boone wasn’t around for much of the latest loss after getting ejected in the second inning.
He was tossed by plate umpire Lance Barrett for arguing balls and strikes, Boone’s seventh ejection this year — tied with David Bell of the Cincinnati Reds for most among major league managers. Boone has been ejected 33 times in six seasons as a big league skipper, all with New York.
“I thought he called a lot of pitches (that were) low and I let him know that and I got thrown out,” Boone said.
Gausman (12-9) bounced back from a wild outing last week, when he walked six over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to Texas. This time, he struck out 10 and walked three while scattering three harmless hits.
“He got better with each inning,” Schneider said. “He’s as good as they get.”
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts versus the Yankees this year. He joined Pedro Martinez (2001) and Chris Sale (2017) as the only pitchers since 1970 with three double-digit strikeout games against the Bronx Bombers in one season.
“We got that one run and it was in the back of my mind and I kind of said, that might be the difference tonight,” Gausman said. “It was nice seeing some runs towards the end of the game and kind of separating that lead a little bit.”
Chad Green, Jordan Hicks and Erik Swanson closed it out for Toronto.
Rookie catcher Austin Wells doubled off Gausman and launched his first major league home run into the second deck in right field off Swanson in the ninth.