Wells homers in ninth as Blue Jays drop opener to Yankees
TORONTO — Whatever the Toronto Blue Jays need Kevin Gausman to do over the next few days, he'll do it.
Austin Wells smashed a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the New York Yankees over the Blue Jays 2-0 on Tuesday. That loss meant that Toronto will have to wait at least one more day to clinch a post-season berth and that Gausman's plans for the rest of the week are up in the air.
He might pitch on Sunday if Toronto still needs to clinch a wild-card spot in the American League. Or he might rest that game to be the starter against the Blue Jays' wild-card opponent.
"I'll be busy cheering these guys on and trying to do whatever I can to help them out," said Gausman about the rest of his week. "Whatever they need. The waterboy. I'll do it all.
"I mean, it's going to be a little weird, but yeah, it's fun to watch these guys."
Gausman pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks but striking out five for the Blue Jays (87-70). Relievers Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano (5-7) of Markham, Ont., followed Gausman to the mound.
Gausman struggled in the first and seventh innings, but otherwise was efficient.
"I started throwing strikes," said Gausman. "Between the first inning and the last inning I threw 52 pitches, so definitely not ideal.
"But I had some good innings in between those."
Toronto holds a 1 1/2 game lead over the Houston Astros for the American League's second wild-card spot.
The Seattle Mariners then sit a half-game behind Houston for the third and final wild-card berth after beating the Astros 6-2 at home later on Tuesday.
Gausman, confident that the Blue Jays will make the playoffs, said he wouldn't watch the west coast game.
"I watch enough baseball," said Gausman with a laugh. "I don't need to watch any more."
Toronto manager John Schneider also didn't plan to watch his team's wild-card competition.
"No, I'm going to have a steak and a beer and go home," he deadpanned.
Wells scored Gleyber Torres with the late blast for New York (80-77). The Yankees are already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and can play spoiler during a three-game series in Toronto.
Michael King struck out five but issued five walks in six innings of one-hit baseball. Jhony Brito (9-7) and Clay Holmes came out of the Yankees' bullpen.
Toronto had an opportunity to break the game open in the third inning.
Kevin Kiermaier reached on a fielder's choice then George Springer and Bo Bichette drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. That brought Vladimir Guerrero Jr., to the plate with the bases loaded and two out.
Guerrero worked King to a full count but then watched a 94.7 m.p.h. sinker go by low and away for a called third strike from home-plate umpire Malachi Moore.
"You've got a catcher yanking his glove up and down, it's showing you that he's trying to really work for that strike," said Schneider. "But is it a ball? Yeah. But I mean, (Moore's) been spotting up for a while and, y'know, if Kevin Gausman would make that same pitch we're pretty happy."
Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette's sharp fielding prevented the Yankees from scoring the game's first run in the seventh.
He fired Oswaldo Cabrera's ground ball to catcher Alejandro Kirk in time for Giancarlo Stanton to be tagged for the inning's second out.
"Obviously, the guy who was at third is not the fastest guy in the league so that probably had a say in why Bo went home," said Gausman. "It was a huge play for us and a big out for me."
Wells broke the scoreless tie in the ninth.
Torres singled off of Romano to lead off the inning to bring Wells to the plate with no outs. Wells took a 95.9 m.p.h. four-seam fastball — the first pitch he'd seen from the Blue Jays' closer — 367 feet into Toronto's bullpen for his third home run of the season and the game's only score.
"You can't throw fastballs down to Wells," said Schneider. "They're young dudes and they are trying to get the ball in the air.
"He just missed his location there."
BELT'S BACK — Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt was reinstated from the 10-day injured list before the game. He batted sixth in Tuesday's game. Belt was out with lumbar spine muscle spasms.
ON DECK — José Berríos (11-11) gets the start for Toronto in the second game of the series.
Ace Gerrit Cole (14-4) will take the mound for the Yankees.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.