C.C. Sabathia threw 8 1/3 innings of three hit ball as the New York Yankees clinched a playoff spot in a 6-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.
It’s the 14th Yankee playoff berth in the last 15 seasons.
New York’s regular season work isn’t quite finished yet though, as they are still one game behind the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays in the division race.
Sabathia (21-7) earned his 21st victory of the season tying him with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy Halladay for the major league lead in that category.
The Yankee (94-64) ace was dominant, locating the strike zone early in the count and putting Blue Jays (81-76) batters in the hole frequently.
The only blemish on a spectacular performance came in the bottom of the third inning when Travis Snider belted a solo shot to deep right field.
That homer tied Toronto’s single season record of 244 home runs that was originally set in 2000.
Other than Snider’s big fly, the crowd of 18,193 didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about until Blue Birds manager Cito Gaston began to question some of the calls that home plate umpire Mark Carlson was making.
In the top of the fifth inning, with the Yanks up 2-1, Brett Gardner would smack a one-out triple to the gap in left-centre field.
Then, after Derek Jeter hit into a fielder’s choice, the speedy outfielder would make a successful slide home that barely eluded Jays catcher John Buck’s tag to put New York up 3-1.
The result of the run scored would draw the ire of Gaston who came out to argue the call.
This wouldn’t be the last time Gaston would pay home plate a visit in the game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Toronto designated hitter J.P. Arencibia was called out for being hit by a throw to first that was interpreted as him making an illegal baseruning move.
Gaston didn’t agree with the call and came out to speak to Carlson about it. The conversation appeared civil, but while on his way back to the dugout, the irked manager seemed to say one word too many, resulting in him getting tossed from the game.
The ejection would bring the home crowd to its feet and spark them to start chanting the manager’s name as he exited the field. Gaston is expected to leave at the end of the season, and this is the final home series of Toronto’s schedule.
Jays’ starter Kyle Drabek (0-3) made his third major league start, and for the third time he lost, going six innings, while giving up three earned runs off five hits with four strikeouts and a walk.
The game began when New York leadoff man Derek Jeter singled on a grounder up the middle. Drabek would manage to strike out the batter following, Nick Swisher, but his pitch would go wild, allowing Jeter to advance to second.
A couple batters later, with the Yankees shortstop at third base because of a Mark Teixeira single, an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly would score Jeter, putting New York ahead 1-0.
Later on, in the front half of the third inning, Jeter would score on another sac fly, the hit coming from Teixeira, making the score 2-0 Yankees.
Jeter had a strong game, going three-for-four with two runs scored and an RBI.
The Jays would mange to cut this lead in half during their turn at bat in the third, however, thanks to the Snider round-tripper.
Two more Yankee runs would be tacked on in the top of the eighth after they loaded the bases, resulting in Rodriguez walking in a run and Robinson Cano hitting a sac fly, putting the score at 5-1.
New York would load the bases again in the top of the ninth, but would only come away with one run in the inning on a fielder’s choice play that allowed pinch runner Eduardo Nunez to score, making it 6-1.
During the bottom half of that inning, Toronto made it interesting when Sabathia gave up a single to Snider and walked Yunel Escobar before getting Jose Bautista to fly out.
After this, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi would call on Mariano Rivera to get the final two outs. The prolific closer would have no problem doing so, getting Vernon Wells to line out and Lyle Overbay to ground out.
These two teams will decide the rubber match on Wednesday at 7:07 PM ET.