TORONTO — David Price got the Blue Jays off to a winning start in Toronto’s most important series of the season.
Price pitched seven shutout innings, Jose Bautista had two hits and the Blue Jays used a three-run first inning to beat the New York Yankees 4-2 on Sept. 21.
Price improved to 8-1 in 10 starts with Toronto since being acquired in a July 30 trade with Detroit.
“Unbelievable,” Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons said. “Trades don’t always work out right. This one has worked out right.”
Toronto stretched its lead in the AL East to 3 1-2 games in the opener of a three-game showdown between the division’s top teams.
With 13 games remaining, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi didn’t downplay the importance of the final two games of the series.
“I think they’re as important as any games we’ve played all year when you talk about trying to win the division,” Girardi said.
The Blue Jays snapped a two-game losing streak, avoiding their first three-game skid since July 8-10.
Facing the Yankees for the fourth time since joining the Blue Jays, Price improved to 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA against New York with Toronto.
“That’s a very good team, one of the most storied franchises,” Price said. “They’re tough to pitch against, so it’s always fun to beat them.”
Price (17-5) got a scare when Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a liner right back at the head of the star left-hander. Price managed to snare the liner, and smiled in relief as he flipped the ball to third baseman Josh Donaldson.
“It kind of caught me,” Price said.
Roberto Osuna overcame Greg Bird’s two-out solo homer in the ninth to earn his 17th save.
Toronto jumped on Adam Warren (6-7) with a three-run first. Ben Revere singled, Donaldson was hit by a pitch and Bautista grounded an RBI single to center before the runners advanced on a wild pitch. Donaldson scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s RBI groundout and Justin Smoak capped the rally with an RBI double.
Warren said he was “too amped up” in the opening inning. “I was trying to make the best pitch in the world instead of trusting my stuff,” he said.
New York used an error, a single and a walk to load the bases with one out in the third. Alex Rodriguez struck out on a 3-2 pitch after narrowly missing a two-run double on a ball that landed just foul in right, and Price ended the inning by getting Brian McCann to fly out.
“(Price) made his pitches when he had to,” McCann said. “He was good tonight. He was working both sides of the plate, cutting it and sinking it to both sides and keeping guys off balance.”
Those were the first two in a stretch of 14 consecutive outs by Price, who finished his outing by fanning Chase Headley and Bird, then applauded the sellout crowd of 47,648 as he walked off the field.
Toronto extended its lead to 4-0 on Russell Martin’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Andrew Bailey in the seventh.
Aaron Sanchez walked Didi Gregorius to begin the eighth, then left after Dustin Ackley’s single advanced Gregorius to third.
Brett Cecil came on and gave up an RBI single to Ellsbury, but escaped the jam by striking out Brett Gardner, Rodriguez and McCann. Cecil called them the three biggest outs of his career.
“You can’t give him enough credit,” Gibbons said of Cecil. “He’s one of the better relievers in baseball.”
Limited to 85 pitches, Warren left after striking out Kevin Pillar to begin the fourth. He allowed three runs and five hits, walked one and struck out five.