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Ahead of the final game in the Blue Jays' transformative weekend in New York, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was hanging out in a hallway of the visitors' clubhouse, looking antsy.

His team already had three wins from four games at Yankee Stadium. They'd be leaving with a sizable buffer to their lead in the American League East. (After losing later in the afternoon, the advantage is 3 1/2 games.)

It all felt at least a little celebratory. Mr. Anthopoulos wasn't celebrating. Rather, he seemed unwound by all this good fortune.

"I'd have been happy with two [wins]," he sighed.

The postseason remains a verboten topic with the boss. He tries to ignore the division standings. Instead, he concentrates on the second wild-card spot – the minimum requirement for playoff entry.

It was suggested to him that that's pessimistic.

"It's my job to be pessimistic," Mr. Anthopoulos said. He smiled ruefully.

This is the guy who leased a Honda – A HONDA – when he got the GM's job. That was six years ago. He's out of a contract in six weeks' time. So he bought the Honda … "just to be safe."

This man takes no unnecessary risks – neither automotive nor emotional. He may allow himself to get moony about the playoffs a week after the Jays have started them.

Mr. Anthopoulos knows he's cast himself in the role of team Eeyore. He's okay with that.

While he's doing the worrying, everyone else can start giving each other the big, wide eyes that mean, "I'm thinking it, but I don't want to say it." When the regular season is over and we start casting back to where it all turned, the obvious fulcrum is the trade deadline. But I think it'll actually be this past Saturday.

The Jays were so close to giving it up, twice. It was, in John Gibbons's terminology, "a long-ass day." It started out horrendously. It refused to end. It ground on and on through a wet, miserable night. But by the end, the Jays had taken two.

That may not seem remarkable. Given the circumstances, it was.

"To win another one. … That's rare. I think, like, 60, 70 per cent of doubleheaders are split," said R.A. Dickey.

That's not exactly true. Not in recent years, at least. But you can understand why it feels that way to Mr. Dickey.

You don't come to Yankee Stadium and embarrass the biggest ball club in the world. The Jays did. And on more than one level.

It was more than nine hours from first pitch until last. By the end, there were perhaps 500 people in attendance. You could hear every one of them speaking, gibbering, squawking at the players and each other. One nitwit began shrieking the name of every Blue Jays player as he took a swing. We had agreed we would kill him together and then give each other alibis, but he caught a foul ball (it was hard not to by that point) and calmed.

The first game started with disaster. In the second inning, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki cracked his scapula (shoulder blade) in a collision with outfielder Kevin Pillar. The moment it happened – as Mr. Tulowitzki dropped to ground, pole-axed, a caught ball slipping out of his glove – you knew it was bad. This wasn't a bump on the road. This was a pothole tearing off a tire.

Poor Kevin Pillar was standing out there like he'd just received a ransom note for his dog, and everything momentarily seemed quite tenuous.

It continued on that way – the Jays stretching out to leads and being reeled back in – until the 11th inning. It wasn't the best inning in Jays' history. It may have been the worst in Yankees'.

Now tied at 5-5 and dredging the bottom of their bullpen, the Yankees threw out Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve. Don't bother paying attention. You won't be hearing those names again.

The two combined to walk five batters and hit another. As Mr. Shreve was losing it on the tail end, it sounded as if the crowd might come out of the stands and quarter him on the field. The poor kid left to boos so desultory, it was a functional shunning.

The Jays scored four in the 11th on one hit, winning 9-5. It was like the miracle of loaves and fishes. But with runs.

Just as it ended, rain began to fall lightly. The first game had gone 4 1/2 hours. It was Saturday and it's New York. Everybody left. Everybody but the Jays fans.

During Game 1, you'd notice them during big moments for Toronto. On each of Jose Bautista's two home runs, a couple of thousand people scattered around in blue stood up to cheer. It was Toronto's Spartacus moment.

When they started the second game, there were perhaps 10,000 people left. Fewer, probably. It was as empty as Yankee Stadium has been for a first pitch in a very long time. A significant mid-game rain delay further thinned out the crowd.

Jays fans then took over. They'd been causing a ruckus since Friday night, annoying the locals with their chants and general swagger. With the numbers essentially evened, there was no stopping them. The next four hours belonged to them.

Their team continued to grind on, building a 6-0 lead early against hapless starter Ivan Nova. Returning improbably from injury to make his first start of the year, Marcus Stroman looked in mid-season form. This is the calculus of the baseball gods – we give you a Stroman; we take a Tulowitzki. For now at least, it looks like a fair deal.

Once again, the Yankees reeled them in (6-4). Once again, the Jays strung it back out (10-4). And so on and so forth to a 10-7 final. Funnily, it felt inevitable all along. Usually, that works the other way round.

At that moment, the Jays led the AL East by 4 1/2 games. On Aug. 1, they'd trailed the Yankees by six. You wouldn't call it a miracle, but the Vatican might want to take a look anyway. Just to eliminate the possibility.

At the finish, the Jays were more ragged than their opponents. The high-five line looked like the sort you'd see at the mouth of a coal mine on Friday night.

On Sunday morning, they didn't look much better. You just knew they were going to lose, and they did. Masahiro Tanaka bamboozled them for seven innings, but Saturday had sucked it all out of them. They'd checked out afterward. It ended 5-0.

Mr. Tulowitzki said he hoped to be back in three weeks, and maybe he will be. But watching him turn to teammate Matt Hague after the game to ask for help putting on his shirt, it looked iffy.

On a very basic level, the off-day Monday counts as a fourth victory. The Yankees are off to Tampa to play Monday night. The Jays get to go home for rest and reflection.

Currently, Toronto has a 3 1/2-game lead with 19 remaining (including three more at home against the Yankees).

It's not over yet. Mr. Anthopoulos may spend the next three weeks holding his hands to his ears and saying, "La-la-la-la-la," whenever the possibility is mentioned. But let's acknowledge that it should be over. If the Jays do not win the division now, it would count as the biggest regular-season disappointment in club history since the collapse of '87.

There's been no sign of that sort of weakness. Rather the opposite. The Jays came to Yankee Stadium to look their only competition in the eye. And the competition flinched.

If Toronto gets to the place they ought to be going, remember the date – Saturday, September 12, 2015. That's when it turned.