Justin Smoak drove the ball towards the auxiliary scoreboard in left field. The crowd, for a moment, collectively held their breath. Brett Gardner retreated, felt the dirt of the warning track beneath his feet, leapt awkwardly backwards, and felt the ball settle into his glove. With joy, he jumped with both hands in the air as if he had just caught the last out of a World Series Game 7.
It wasn’t a Championship, a Division title or even a Wild Card, but it was the biggest win of the season. With help from the bats of Tyler Austin, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley, the Yankees hit just enough to compensate for a bullpen that is running on fumes.
Aaron Judge struck out twice, again, but his single turned out to be crucial when he scored on the long, majestic home run from Austin, who was celebrating his 25th birthday.
After Kevin Pillar put the Jays back on top with a 2-run double off of the left field wall, the Yankees struck back with a triple by Gregorius and a line drive home run from Headley.
The Yankees still face a difficult climb to reach the postseason. They sit 4.5 games back of the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East, and 3.5 back in the Wild Card – behind Baltimore, Detroit and Houston.
The Yankees will face off against Marcus Stroman on Wednesday night as they try to complete the sweep. Stroman dominated a very different Yankees team on April 14th, but has struggled this year with a 4.58 ERA. He has pitched much better lately, though, with a 3.35 ERA in his last six starts.