Back and forth the Blue Jays and Yankees would go in a series rubber match, each team taking a lead, each team relinquishing a lead, each team matching pitch for pitch with neither team able to seize control.
It made for a compelling afternoon of baseball at Dunedin’s TD Ballpark, a day that began with disconcerting news to Toronto’s pitching, which has yet to elude the injury bug.
The day would end on a walk-off homer by Bo Bichette, his second long ball of the afternoon, as Toronto won its second season series over the Bronx Bombers, this one a nailbiting 5-4 victory.
T.J. Zeuch, who was originally scheduled to start Thursday in Kansas City, filled in for fellow right-hander Ross Stripling, a late-morning scratch because of a forearm issue.
Zeuch went four innings before Toronto’s bullpen entered the fray.
Julian Merryweather wasn’t among the arms available after the Jays placed the righty on the injured list.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continued his impressive start on a sunny Florida day when the Jays stranded too many runners on base.
It didn’t matter because Toronto’s bullpen did a solid job.
New York had five hits, including two off the bat of Aaron Judge, both home runs.
Another day, another pitching calamity for the Blue Jays, who have seen a series of arms experience some kind of setback this early into a season.
Manager Charlie Montoyo revealed how Stripling began to feel discomfort in his forearm a few hours prior to his scheduled matinee start.
“He tried to get it loose,” said Montoyo of Stripling. “He couldn’t get the forearm to get loose. I don’t know anything more. Our hope is that it’s not bad. We’ll see.”
The right hander was poised to make his third start of the season and second at TD Ballpark.
Stripling was coming off a 5.0 inning no-decision last Wednesday against the LA Angels when he gave up six hits, including a home run.
In keeping with the team’s pitching woes, the news on Merryweather wasn’t exactly uplifting.
Montoyo said his reliever felt something was amiss while warming up on the mound Tuesday night.
“He felt okay,” said the skipper.
And then two pitchers later Merryweather was pulled after experiencing what the team called “left hip irritation.”
Merryweather now resides on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain.
The 29-year-old was lights out when the Blue Jays turned to Merryweather to close out two games in New York, including a near immaculate inning in the Bronx in the season-series opener.
Toronto activated Anthony Castro, a pitcher Montoyo said he hoped to use out of the bullpen.
“He had a good spring training and he did well at the alternate site,” said Montoyo of the right hander.
True to Montoyo’s word, Castro entered Wednesday’s game in the seventh inning to face the bottom of New York’s order.
The Venezuelan celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday.
He retired the side and then kept the Yankees off the board in the eighth.
KIRK FOLLOWS ROWDY
Rowdy Tellez ended his 0-for-21 start to the season Tuesday night.
Alejandro Kirk then snapped his 0-for-13 start at the plate Wednesday when he went deep off Yankees starter Corey Kluber.
Tellez set the table by getting on base with a single, an 0-2 pitch he went the opposite way.
The Jays had Tellez batting seventh in the lineup at first base with Kirk in the No. 8 hole.
Josh Palacios started in right field and batted ninth.
Tellez was featured in a pre-game Zoom call when he discussed the extra work in the cage, working on the “little things that did not allow me to get into my best position.”
Once his rhythm and timing improved, Tellez said it allowed him to get into his load position.
With runners on first and second and two out, Tellez came to the plate in the third.
He grounded out to first to end the inning, which would feature a Bichette homer, his third of the season.
Palacios misplayed a ball in the fourth that led to a Gleyber Torres double.
It allowed the Yankees to take the lead.
The three-hit, three-run inning gave New York a 4-3 edge.
The Jays would tie the game on a wild pitch as Tellez crossed the plate after he got on base with his second hit on the day.
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The big bopper known as Judge needed his first at bat to produce his third homer of the season when he took Zeuch deep to left on a rope that landed in the Yankees bullpen.
Toronto’s pitchers have done a solid job in keeping Judge’s bat at bay, limiting Judge to three hits in 14 at bats in the series opener staged in the Bronx.
The towering outfielder was 0-for-6 in the first two games in Dunedin until his opening-inning blast Wednesday.
The home run was Judge’s first extra base hit against the Blue Jays this season.
Judge then went deep to centre off Zeuch to start the fourth.
It was the 11th time Judge has produced a two-homer game in his career.
Judge would misplay a liner off the bat of Cavan Biggio in the fifth with two out.
Unfortunately for the Jays, Biggio rounded third base a bit too aggressively and would get tagged out on a run down to end the inning.
Judge got on base in the eighth on a one-out error by Biggio and then was forced out at second on a nice play by Toronto’s middle infielders, Biggio and Marcus Semien.