06/05/08 9:45 PM EST
Heartbreaker spoils Stairs' five RBIs
Yankees' three-run ninth ends Blue Jays' road trip on sour note
By Samantha Newman / MLB.com
Moments after Yankees slugger Jason Giambi connected with a slider off Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan, the crowd rose to its feet and erupted, as the ball soared deep into the right-field upper deck to send the Blue Jays to their second straight loss. The 9-8 defeat was a disheartening way for Toronto to end its nine-game road trip.
"It wasn't meant to be," said a dejected Blue Jays manager John Gibbons after the game. "But they've got their magic in this place."
Giambi jumped into a pile of Yankees crowded around home plate, and the celebration took off, while Ryan made his way off the field. In the visitors' dugout, the atmosphere was the polar opposite.
The Blue Jays had led since the fourth inning and were one strike away from a victory that would have given them a 5-4 record on their trip. Instead, they watched as a two-run advantage disappear, left with a sour 9-8 defeat and a series of "What ifs?"
What if Jays shortstop David Eckstein had managed to snag Alex Rodriguez's grounder in the ninth inning instead of deflecting it between himself and third baseman Scott Rolen?
What if Dustin McGowan had breezed through the fifth inning without handing the Yankees a walk and hitting a batter? Those mistakes proved costly in a two-run inning for New York that helped erase part of Toronto's five-run onslaught in the top half of the frame.
What if Ryan had snuck that last pitch past Giambi for the final out?
Gibbons didn't have any of the answers.
"I can't explain this one," Gibbons said. "We had them right at the end of the game. We put up a five-spot, but then we gave up the two right back."
It must be something about the Yankees. With Thursday's loss, Ryan (1-2) has blown six of 10 save opportunities in his career against the Bronx Bombers. It also marked his second straight blown save after he had converted his first 12 opportunities of the season.
With his head down in the clubhouse after the game, Ryan talked about the disappointment of letting down his teammates.
"I just made a terrible pitch at a terrible time," Ryan said. "You watch your team go out there and take advantage of opportunities given to them and grind out, give you a lead. And that's your job, that's why you're here.
"It's disappointing. It's just tough to swallow right now."
The Jays (32-30) jumped to an early lead, powered by veteran Matt Stairs. The designated hitter snapped an 0-for-12 run at the plate in the fourth inning with a two-run homer that sailed just over the right-field wall to tie the game at 2. Stairs followed up his homer by sparking the Jays' five-run fifth inning with a two-run single.
But the lead began to unravel quickly. The Yankees (30-30) answered with two runs of their own, with Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu leading the charge with two RBIs each, sending McGowan to an early exit. He left the game charged with five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"You're not going to shut out teams like this," McGowan said. "I threw a lot of pitches, got into some deep counts. ... They hit some good pitches, found some holes."
The normally reliable Toronto bullpen couldn't keep the Yankees off the scoreboard, either.
New York picked up two more runs when Wilson Betemit homered off lefty Jesse Carlson in the sixth inning to cut Toronto's lead to 7-6. From there, it was touch and go.
The Yankees threatened in the eighth, when Johnny Damon connected on a Scott Downs curveball with Robinson Cano on base. But Brad Wilkerson made a spectacular catch against the wall in right field to end the inning.
It was a sigh of relief for Toronto. But it wasn't enough, and Giambi's heroics sent the Blue Jays packing -- able to think about the "if only."
"It was one of those games," Eckstein said. "Both teams had opportunities to score more runs, and we found ways to get out of it, but they just ended up coming out on top in the end.
"They have a great offense over there, so the game's never over with them."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.