The batted ball did not even have enough velocity to carry through the infield but it was all that was required to help the Toronto Blue Jays to finally achieve success in what has become their personal field of screams.
The big-little hit was orchestrated by Dan Johnson in the top of the seventh inning here on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, otherwise known as Death Valley by a Blue Jays outfit whose futility mark in New York had climbed to an astonishing 0-17.
The bases were loaded with none out in a tie ballgame when Johnson’s soft liner squirted off his bat and floated to the right of the pitcher’s mound toward Brian Roberts, the Yankees second baseman.
With Yankee first baseman Brian McCann also honing in on the action along with relief pitcher Matt Thornton, the ball dropped in front of Roberts with enough of a spin that it darted to the right and was bobbled momentarily.
That provided the opening the Blue Jays needed as Johnson was able to reach first safely on what was scored a hit while Melky Cabrera scampered in from third for the go-ahead run in a game that the Blue Jays ultimately prevailed, 6-4.
“Sometimes you need a screw-up or something to help you win a game in a touch streak, and we got some of that,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
With the win, their first at Yankee Stadium dating back to Aug. 29, 2012, the Blue Jays have leveled the three-game set at one-game apiece have pulled back into a second-place tie with the Yankees in the American League East.
Johnson also delivered a big, three-run home run shot in the top of the ninth inning that boosted Toronto’s lead to 6-2.
“You just need one more run than the other team, regardless of how it happens,” said Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro. “Sometimes it feels like we have caught a lot of bad breaks and we come out today and finally it went in our favor.”
Johnson’s home run proved after Toronto closer Casey Janssen came on in the bottom of the ninth where he allowed a two-run home run off the bat of Carlos Beltran to close the gap somewhat.
The seventh inning was a complete disaster for the Yankees, who opened an early lead on the strength of a two-run homer by McCann off Toronto starter Drew Hutchison in the fourth.
Toronto came right back to tie it with two runs of their own in the fifth in what was a solidly pitched game by both Hutchison and Chris Capuano for the Yankees.
Hutchison got the win, allowing two New York runs off five hits over 6.2-innings to improve to 7-9 on the season.
With the scored knotted at 2-2, the seventh inning weirdness began after Capuano walked Cabrera who then moved to third after a double by Jose Bautista.
Navarro, the slow-moving Toronto catcher, then stepped into the batter’s box and he grounded to McCann, normally a catcher by trade but who is marking some time at first base while Mark Teixeira recovers from injury.
McCann was stationed off the bag at first when he caught Navarro’s grounder but he immediately became distracted by Cabrera, who was taking a generous lead off third, threatening like he might race home.
Further complicating matters, Bautista was about three-quarters of the way to third base before he applied the breaks.
Not knowing exactly what to do, McCann instead did nothing and hung onto the ball while Navarro loped past him to safely reach first base.
Cabrera then dove back safely to third while Bautista high-tailed it back to second, just beating the relay by McCann, who finally came out of his trance to unload the ball.
“For Mac [McCann], it’s inexperience,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “With what we’ve got going on with Tex [Teixeira] we really don’t have a first baseman. He’s done a pretty good job.”
The on came Johnson with his cue shot to second that moved Toronto in front 3-2.
On the injury front, Gibbons was hoping that three of his sidelined players might be able to return to the roster before the end of next week.
While that still may be the case for Adam Lind (foot) and Nolan Reimold (calf) it now appears that slugger Edwin Encarnacion will be out a little longer than ancitipated.
Gibbons said the team’s home run (26) and run-batted-in leader (70) suffered a setback in Florida where he is trying to recover from a right quad strain that has seen him miss the last 16 games.
“Eddie had a little setback down in Florida, he was a little bit tender so we’ll back him off a few days,” Gibbons said Saturday morning in advance of Toronto’s afternoon game here against New York at Yankee Stadium.
“He was feeling it when he was twisting it, the torque in the swing,” Gibbons continued. “Other than that those guys are doing well.”
Third baseman Brett Lawrie also continues to recover from a broken right index finger but his return I still a ways off.