Bird hits tiebreaking HR in 10th, Yankees beat Blue Jays 6-4
TORONTO (AP) During his brief time in the majors, Greg Bird has developed a knack for hitting big home runs.
The rookie launched a three-run shot in the 10th inning and the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 Tuesday night to move closer in the AL East race.
Andrew Miller (3-2) pitched two innings for the win and New York closed within 2 1/2 games of first-place Toronto. The teams meet for the final time this season Wednesday night.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't want to contemplate his team's chances of catching the Blue Jays without Bird's timely homer.
''We would have dug ourselves a pretty deep hole,'' Girardi said.
Filling in for injured first baseman Mark Teixeira, Bird connected off reliever Mark Lowe (1-3) for his 10th home run in 34 games and third in the past three nights.
''We're still definitely in it,'' Bird said. ''Now it's off to tomorrow.''
The runs were the first Lowe had allowed in 10 September appearances.
''It was a good pitch, down and away, bottom of the zone,'' Lowe said. ''He just leaned out and got it. Great piece of hitting.''
Brian McCann led off the 10th with a bunt single and was replaced by pinch-runner Rico Noel. Slade Heathcott reached on catcher's interference before Bird drove a 2-2 pitch into the right-field bullpen. Six of his 10 homers have given the Yankees a lead.
''It seems like they've always been important, they've always been big homers,'' Miller said. ''They're nothing to sneeze at. He's got them in big situations and he's been a huge part of this team.''
Bird ripped his helmet off and slammed it to the ground in delight as he returned to the dugout following his homer.
''I was pretty pumped up,'' he said. ''It's a big win for us, a big team win. Good feeling.''
Girardi couldn't recall the bench being more excited at any time this season.
''It was probably as emotional and loud as I've seen it this year, which is understandable,'' he said.
Carlos Beltran gave the Yankees a 3-2 advantage when he homered off Liam Hendriks in the eighth.
Toronto used a single and two walks to load the bases against Dellin Betances with two outs in the eighth, but Betances struck out Edwin Encarnacion to preserve the one-run lead.
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista prevented a New York insurance run in the ninth by throwing out Chris Young at home plate on Jacoby Ellsbury's fly ball. It was Bautista's second outfield assist of the game - he also threw out Dustin Ackley at third base in the seventh.
Bautista's play proved vital when Dioner Navarro hit a tying homer on the first pitch he saw from Miller in the ninth. The blown save was Miller's second with the Yankees.
Kevin Pillar hit a two-out double, pinch-hitter Matt Hague was intentionally walked and pinch-hitter Russell Martin walked to load the bases before Miller struck out Josh Donaldson to send it to extra innings.
Encarnacion hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 10th but Toronto lost for the third time in four games.
The Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on McCann's RBI single and Beltran's sacrifice fly.
Pillar halved the deficit with a one-out homer into the second deck in left in the third, his 11th. Toronto tied it in the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Justin Smoak.
After his shaky first inning, Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada gave up a two-out double to Ellsbury in the second and a two-out single by Beltran in the third, then set down 11 straight before issuing a four-pitch walk to Ackley with one out in the seventh.
Ackley tried to go to third when Didi Gregorius followed with a single to right, but was thrown out by Bautista, with Donaldson leaping to catch Bautista's high throw, spinning as he landed and tagging Ackley's foot. Umpire Greg Gibson initially ruled Ackley safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.
Estrada left after intentionally walking Ellsbury and was replaced by Aaron Loup, who gave up an infield single to Brett Gardner that loaded the bases. Hendriks came on and escaped the jam by striking out Alex Rodriguez on three pitches.
The Yankees lead the majors with 119 first-inning runs this season.
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki played catch and fielded grounders for the first time since breaking his left shoulder blade in a Sept. 12 game at Yankee Stadium. There is no timetable for his return.
Yankees: RHP Ivan Nova (6-8, 5.11 ERA) starts in place of injured RHP Masahiro Tanaka (right hamstring) in the series finale Wednesday night. Nova will start for the first time since allowing six runs in 1 2-3 innings of a Sept. 12 loss to Toronto.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (2-0, 3.00) makes his third start since returning from a torn ligament in his left knee. It will be Stroman's second start against New York. He pitched five innings to beat the Yankees on Sept. 12.