TORONTO — Teoscar Hernandez pounded his chest as he rounded the bases at Rogers Centre, celebrating his go-ahead three-run home run. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., whose grand slam had brought Toronto to within a run, cheered him on from the top step of the Blue Jays dugout.
Their big bats were the difference on Sunday as the Blue Jays rallied past the New York Yankees 10-9 on Sunday in a statement victory for Toronto. The win snapped New York's nine-game streak and helped the Blue Jays avoid a three-game sweep by their divisional rival.
"It was a lot of emotions, it was a big moment in the game," said Hernandez about his celebration. "I was in a big spot and it was a time that my team needs me to get the best at bat that I can get in that inning."
New York has a sizable 11-game lead over the second-place Blue Jays in the American League East with the best record in Major League Baseball. Toronto had been hot entering the series and slowing the Yankees down, even for one game, was a confidence boost.
"Against the Yankees, every game is going to be like that," said Hernandez. "Everybody knows the team that they have, the run they're on right now."
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. opened the game with a two-run homer and George Springer's solo shot also helped Toronto (38-28) end a three-game losing skid.
Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi (2-3) gave up three runs on three hits and struck out five in four innings of work in a no decision. He walked two and hit two batters, as well as throwing one wild pitch.
Adam Cimber, Max Castillo in his MLB debut, Yimi Garcia (1-3), Tim Mayza and Jordan Romano came on in relief. Cimber gave up three runs and Castillo coughed up back-to-back home runs in his first two at bats.
"That's credit to the whole team," said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. "They didn't quit and you felt it in the dugout. 'OK, we've still got a chance.'"
Former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was lustily booed by the 44,395 at Rogers Centre with each at bat. The jeers were at their loudest after he hit a two-run homer for the Yankees (49-17) in the third inning.
Gleyber Torres, Kyle Higashioka, Marwin Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Anthony Rizzo added solo home runs for New York.
Luis Severino struck out nine, but gave up five runs over five innings. Relievers Miguel Castro and Wandy Peralta (1-1) allowed another five before Ron Marinaccio mopped up.
"This was going to be an easy win, that’s what I thought," said Severino. "You know, it’s not over until it’s over. They made a great comeback."
Toronto trailed New York 8-7 heading into the seventh inning.
Guerrero and Alejandro Kirk were already on base when Hernandez came to the plate. He watched two change-ups from Peralta miss the strike zone and worked the count to 2-1.
The Yankees reliever went back to the same pitch and Hernandez took full advantage with a three-run shot just over the outfield wall for a 10-8 lead.
"I was looking for a pitch where I can do some damage, at least to bring the tying run to the plate, and it just went out of the park," said Hernandez.
Rizzo, inserted in the lineup for Higashioka in the eighth, put a Mayza offering to deep right field to cut into Toronto's lead. Gonzalez got an infield single in the next at bat, followed by a single from pinch-hitter Jose Trevino to threaten the Blue Jays' slim lead.
That brought Blue Jays closer Romano to the mound with five outs to go. He got out of the eighth with a fly ball and a strikeout.
"I went back into the clubhouse a little bit, talked to myself in the mirror and then came back out," said Romano about pitching for more than an inning. "It's hard for me to sit still in those kinds of situations so I sat down for maybe 45 seconds and then the rest I was moving around."
Romano rung up Donaldson to start the ninth, issued a walk to Giancarlo Stanton, and then forced Torres to flyout to centre. Aaron Hicks singled to right field, but Romano of Markham, Ont., earned his 17th save of the season by inducing a Rizzo groundout.
"I think that was a huge, huge win," said Romano. "After the first two games, I think it would have been easy to just kind of roll over here. You know what I mean? But it's not what we do. We fought back and ended up winning the game."
PEARSON HURT — Blue Jays pitching prospect Nate Pearson was removed from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons' game after two pitches on Sunday afternoon with right-shoulder discomfort. The Blue Jays said the hard-throwing 25-year-old would be re-evaluated.
CASTILLO CALLED UP — Castillo was selected to the Blue Jays roster before the game. Righty Casey Lawrence was optioned to triple-A Buffalo in a corresponding move.
UP NEXT — The Blue Jays hit the road on Monday with José Berríos (5-2) getting the start in Chicago against the White Sox. Chicago counters with Lance Lynn, who began his season on the injured list and earned a no decision in his first start last week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press