One pitch costs Litsch, Jays

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

NEW YORK -- It was just one pitch that Jesse Litsch would like to have back but sometimes that one pitch is the only one that matters.

We take you now to the fifth inning of the series finale at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The Yankees have just tied the score at 2-2.

With Brett Gardner on second, Derek Jeter hits a grounder to Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar, who decides to try to cut down the fleet Yankee at third base. The throw is late and now Gardner and Jeter are at the corners with one out and Curtis Granderson at the plate.

Litsch falls behind 3-0. Granderson takes a vicious swing and miss at the fourth pitch, then fouls off the next to run the count full.

"I fell behind him and had to come back," said Litsch later. "He hit a fastball that leaked over the middle of the plate and he got the best of me."

The result was a three-run home run, Granderson's eighth blast of the season, that provided all the cushion Ivan Nova and the rest of the Yankees would need in a 5-2 victory to take two out of three games in the weekend series.

Of some distress to the Jays was the fact that right fielder Jose Bautista, who leads the American League in hitting, on-base percentage and home runs, was removed from the game following his second walk of the game in the seventh inning with what was described as "neck tightness."

With an off-day on Monday, Bautista is expected to return to the lineup when the Jays resume this 10-game road trip in Tampa on Tuesday.

"It's one of those things that happens when you sleep on your neck a little wrong," Bautista said. "It's been bothering me for a couple of days and it just got really tight today.

"I just figured this was a good time to give somebody else a shot at scoring from first base on a double. It hurts me more when I'm running and throwing the ball. I had four at-bats and I didn't know if I would be up again, so it would have been a little bit selfish to stay in the game when I couldn't run 100%."

With an off-day today, Bautista will get some rest and treatment and doesn't expect to miss any playing time.

"I'll be ready for the next game," he said. "That's not an issue."

For Litsch, it was a sour result from what he believed was a grinding mound effort.

"I battled," he said. "I worked in and out as well as I could and tried to keep them off balance; got some big double plays when I needed them.

But that one pitch ... that's how to ruin a good game.

"They're going to get you from time to time and you hope it's just not in a big situation. That, right there, was a big situation."

In the early innings, the Yanks and Jays exchanged solo home runs. Mark Teixeira's seventh with two outs in the first gave the Bombers a 1-0 lead, but Adam Lind matched it leading off the top of the second.

Toronto took the lead in the third. Rajai Davis was hit by a Ivan Nova pitch, then stole second and third before he came home on Bautista's groundball out to shortstop.

The Jays took that 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fateful fifth. First the Yanks parlayed a Jorge Posada leadoff double with Gardner's single and a groundout by catcher Francisco Cervelli to tie it at 2-2.

Then came Escobar's ill-fated attempt to make a play on Gardner at third.

"That play was right in front of him," manager John Farrell said. "It's easy enough now to second-guess him but in that moment he's got to make a throw on time and to the spot to get a runner as quick as Gardner is. In hindsight it didn't turn out, but he made a split-second decision to go to third."

Despite losing the last two games, the Jays are still ahead of the game on this road trip with four wins in seven tries. After today's off-day they will face the Rays who blew a 5-0 lead to lose 6-5 Sunday, Tuesday's game very likely is a make-or-break event for pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes, who has run hot and cold, but mostly cold. In three of his five starts he has failed to get out of the fourth inning and if he struggles again in this one, it could be the end for him with the Blue Jays.

"It's an important one and I think he would agree with that," Farrell said. "He's an aware young guy who understands the situation he's in. He would do himself, and certainly us, a world of good to go out and have a good game."

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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