NEW YORK -- There were moments when this game had all the finesse of shirts versus skins at the company picnic. And then there was Yunel Escobar to make all the ugliness go away.
In the end, the Blue Jays won for the fourth time in five games on this road trip, tripping up the New York Yankees 5-3 in a bit of entertainment that went from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again.
There was a two-run bomb by Jose Bautista, his league-leading ninth homer of the season's first month. There was another solo shot by J.P. Arencibia. There was a bend-but-don't-break six innings of work by Ricky Romero. There was a pair of solo homers by New York's Robinson Cano.
But it all could have gone so wrong for Toronto in the bottom of the fifth inning. With Yankees at first and second, Nick Swisher lined a ball directly at Toronto third baseman Edwin Encarnacion but the ball clanked off his glove. When he picked it up, a triple play was still possible. All he needed to do was throw to John McDonald at second, who had runners Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter at his mercy. Instead, Encarnacion's relay missed second base by a mile and everybody was safe with still nobody out.
Cue Escobar. First, he ranged well into left field to make a back-to-the-plate catch of a flare by Mark Teixeira. One out.
Then Alex Rodriguez stung a groundball to Escobar's right. Like a cat he pounced on it, threw a blur across his body to second and McDonald relayed for the crisis-ending double play.
"It was a helter-skelter inning and he made two great plays to help us get out of it. Somehow we got out without a run," said Romero.
"Huge inning right there. That's the inning that changed the whole game. They had momentum and we were able to take it away."
More bubbleheadedness, this time by the Yankees, led to the decisive runs in the sixth when reliever Dave Robertson had Bautista picked off first but held the ball, fearing Rajai Davis would flee home from third base. In his confusion, Robertson finally tossed a panicked throw to second that missed everybody. Davis strolled home and Bautista later scored on a single by Juan Rivera.
But the Yanks weren't quite done. Cano's second homer led off the eighth, then they loaded the bases with one out. Octavio Dotel got a critical strikeout of Jeter before Jon Rauch threw one pitch and got a weak ground ball from Swisher to get out of the jam.
Game Of Inches
A day after Bautista nearly had his head torn off by a pitched baseball, Romero had the same thing happen, this time with a ball rocketed off Teixeira's bat.
In the bottom of the third, Teixeira absolutely tattooed a Romero pitch on a line at the Jays pitcher's noggin. At the last nano-second, Romero got his glove up and made the catch, an inch in front of his nose. Instead of disaster, it was just another out.
"I had it all the way. Hey, I'm athletic," said Romero, jokingly. "No ... I don't know how I did it. It's just reaction. After, Lind was yelling for me to throw to first and I couldn't even blink. My life was flashing in front of my eyes."
"If it doesn't hit the glove, I'd hate to think what might have been," said Farrell.
With David Cooper summoned from Las Vegas and Rajai Davis back from an ankle injury, the Jays have changed their lineup to try to maximize the current offensive potential.
For now, Cooper will DH for the most part. Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson will split time in left field, with Davis back in the mix in centrefield.
"This is the way we'll go for now. We do have some flexibility with (Mike) McCoy and Patterson if we need to go with a stronger defensive team. We think we can score more runs with the current alignment."
Occasionally, Cooper will play first base when Adam Lind gets a day off or on days when they simply exchange places.
Keeping 'em honest
Winning three out of four at Texas was a breakthrough for the Jays in a couple of ways. Not only did it help put a four-wins-in-14-games stretch behind them, but both Lind and Rivera broke out of their offensive slumps. Lind was 7-for-17, including three home runs and Rivera was 7-for-14 with a homer. That's not just good news for Lind and Rivera, but for Jose Bautista, as well.
"It was very important, particularly the way teams have been pitching Jose," said Farrell. "The way Adam swung the bat down there, to see him cashing in his opportunities, it not only lengthens our lineup but it forces teams to not pitch around Jose as often as they have."