Yankees blow big lead after bullpen collapses in loss to Blue Jays
TORONTO — In what has been a historic start to their season, the Yankees got a dose of reality on Sunday.
After taking a five-run lead into the bottom of the sixth — looking like they were going to cruise to a 10th straight win — the Yankees bullpen imploded as the Blue Jays roared back to win, 10-9, at Rogers Centre.
The loss was just the second in the Yankees’ last 18 games.
And it came out of nowhere. Miguel Castro and Wandy Peralta both gave up huge homers that altered the outcome, as the Yankees deal with the absence of reliable bullpen arms such as Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga, as well as the up-and-down Aroldis Chapman.
Even after Toronto scored eight straight runs to take the lead, the Yankees got a pinch-hit homer from Anthony Rizzo in the eighth and then had runners on second and third when Rizzo struck out against Jordan Romano to end the game.
“You’ve got to beat us,’’ Aaron Boone said. “They come back with some huge at-bats to grab the lead and our guys don’t go away. … Even in a game we lost, I’m sure the other side is [saying] ‘We know we’ve got to beat those guys.’ ”
On Sunday, that’s just what the Blue Jays did.
A two-run shot by Josh Donaldson gave the Yankees the lead in the third and Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres had run-scoring doubles in the fifth.
Back-to-back homers by light-hitting Kyle Higashioka and Marwin Gonzalez made it 8-3 in the top of the sixth and even though Luis Severino wasn’t at his best, the Yankees appeared to be well in control.
But the game began to unravel for them in the bottom of the inning, as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled and Alejandro Kirk walked to end Luis Severino’s outing.
Castro entered and got Teoscar Hernandez to hit into a force out and struck out Santiago Espinal, but walked Matt Chapman to load the bases.
Following a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. gave the Blue Jays life with a grand slam to cut the Yankees’ lead to one run.
Raimel Tapia followed with a double and Wandy Peralta came and got Springer. But like Castro, Peralta faltered.
With one on and one out in the seventh, Peralta walked Kirk, drawing another visit from Blake and again, the Blue Jays answered with a home run, as Hernandez hit one out to center.
The three-run shot made it 10-8 to complete the improbable comeback.
Rizzo, hitting for Higashioka with one-out in the eighth, hit a solo homer off left-hander Tim Mayza that made it 10-9.
Jose Trevino then pinch hit for Joey Gallo and walked.
Romano got DJ LeMahieu for the second out and the right-hander struck out Aaron Judge on a 98 mph fastball to end the inning.
Giancarlo Stanton walked with one out in the ninth and after Gleyber Torres flied out, Aaron Hicks singled, sending Stanton to third.
With Rizzo at the plate, Hicks stole second before Rizzo fought back from 0-2 to get to a full count before grounding to second to finish it.
The Yankees were looking for their ninth series sweep of the year and to match the best 66-game start in franchise history.
Instead, their MLB-best record fell to 49-17 and their lead in the AL East dropped to 11 games over Toronto as the Yankees prepare for another series against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“A lot of our losses are tight and kind of gut-wrenching,” Rizzo said. “It’s a credit to our team. We are relentless and continue to fight to the last out.”