TORONTO — The Yankees’ only losing record to an AL East team is the worst one.
With their slim chances of catching the first-place Red Sox quickly running out of track, the Yankees opened a three-game series against the last-place Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday night needing a win and a Red Sox loss to shave the deficit from three games to two.
Thanks to an error by second baseman Starlin Castro in the first inning that led to an unearned run and Masahiro Tanaka giving up homers to Teoscar Hernandez in the third inning, Russell Martin in the fourth and a grand slam to Ryan Goins in the sixth, the Yankees’ three-game winning streak was stopped via an 8-1 loss that was witnessed by 42,153.
The Yankees’ 6-8 record against the Blue Jays is their only losing ledger versus an AL East team.
“This team has played us tough all year, so we have to go out and play well,’’ Joe Girardi said of the Blue Jays before his club, which had won 10 of its past 12 games, failed to do that.
While the AL East title is slipping away, the Yankees are moving closer to clinching the top AL wild-card spot. They led the Twins by 6 ½ games going into Friday night’s action.
Aaron Judge, who went 2-for-2 with two walks, got the Yankees going in the right direction with a first-inning homer to left off Marco Estrada that measured at 469 feet. It was the 46th of the season for the AL Rookie of the Year lock, leaving him three shy of tying Mark McGwire’s MLB rookie record of 49, which was set in 1987.
Aaron Judge hits a first-inning home run Friday.AP
However, Estrada blanked the Yankees in the following six innings and posted his fifth straight victory. He is 10-8.
Tanaka (12-12), who was 4-1 in his past five starts, gave up eight runs (seven earned) and six hits.
With the Yankees trailing 4-1, Tanaka walked Jose Bautista to start the sixth and gave up a single to Kevin Pillar. After striking out Martin and Miguel Montero, Tanaka walked pinch hitter Kendrys Morales to load the bases for Goins, the No. 9 hitter. Tanaka got ahead 0-2 and watched the left-handed-hitting Goins drive the next pitch over the right-field wall for his second career grand slam and eighth homer of the season.
Estrada’s previous outing against the Yankees was a seven-inning gem in which he allowed five hits and no runs.
Through five frames Friday night, the righty wasn’t as crisp, but allowed only Judge’s monster blast.
Todd Frazier’s leadoff double in the third and a walk to Judge to open the fourth didn’t start anything. Frazier was tagged out on a hidden-ball trick by Goins, who took the throw into the infield after Jacoby Ellsbury’s long fly out to right while standing near second base. After pretending to toss the ball back to Estrada, Goins slipped it into his glove, waited for Frazier to step off the base, then quickly tagged him on the left thigh. Frazier insisted he had maintained contact with the base, but umpire Mark Carlson called him out to end the inning.
Two-out walks to Frazier and Clint Frazier in the fifth amounted to nothing when Ellsbury flied to left and stranded two.
Hernandez’s homer to left starting the third inning broke a 1-1 tie, and Martin hiked the Blue Jays’ advantage to 4-1 an inning later with a laser to left that cleared the fence with Bautista on first via a leadoff walk. At the time of Martin’s homer, he was 1-for-12 against Tanaka.
Judge’s solo homer in the first inning staked Tanaka to a 1-0 lead that Castro helped give back in the home half of the frame.
Hernandez opened with a single to left in front of Josh Donaldson’s soft chopper to third baseman Frazier. His throw to Castro at second glanced off Castro’s glove and into right-center field. That allowed Hernandez to make third and put runners at the corners without an out for Justin Smoak.
Tanaka fanned him with a 3-2 splitter and traded an out for a run when Bautista’s slow roller to Frazier scored Hernandez and moved Donaldson to second. Tanaka stranded him there by getting Pillar on a routine fly to right.