TORONTO — Russell Martin hit a three-run homer and Marcus Stroman threw seven scoreless innings as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 on Wednesday in the rubber game of a pivotal three-game series between American League East rivals.
Martin turned on a 2-2 pitch from Andrew Bailey in the seventh inning for his 21st homer of the year. Brett Cecil and Roberto Osuna completed the shutout in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of 48,056 at Rogers Centre.
The victory restored Toronto’s 3 1/2-game cushion on the second-place Yankees in the division standings. New York (83-68) has 11 games left to play, one more than the Blue Jays (87-65).
Toronto entered play 1 1/2 games behind Kansas City for the best record in the American League. The Royals were at Seattle on Wednesday night.
Stroman (3-0), making his third start after missing most of the season while recovering from knee surgery, allowed five hits and a walk. He had five strikeouts and trimmed his earned-run average to 1.89.
The Blue Jays had their chances against Yankees starter Ivan Nova but didn’t score until he left the game after issuing a two-out walk to Martin in the sixth. Left-hander James Pazos gave up a single to Ryan Goins that moved Martin to third base and Kevin Pillar drove him in with a single off reliever Caleb Cotham.
Toronto would load the bases before left-fielder Brett Gardner tracked down a Ben Revere drive near the warning track for the third out. Nova (6-9) allowed one earned run, four hits, two walks and had six strikeouts.
Stroman retired the first eight batters he faced before Didi Gregorius hit a flare that landed in shallow centre field. Jacoby Ellsbury flew out on the next pitch to leave him stranded.
The Blue Jays put runners on in the first two innings but couldn’t capitalize. Justin Smoak struck out with two runners in scoring position in the first inning and Revere lined out to end the second.
Smoak showed off his defensive skills at first base in the fifth. After Greg Bird reached on a single, Smoak fielded Chase Headley’s grounder and threw to Goins for the force at second base before scooping the return throw out of the dirt for a double play.
New York put two runners on in the seventh after a walk and a single but Stroman got Dustin Ackley to line out to centre field. Donaldson led off the home half of the inning with a double and moved to third on a Bautista grounder.
Edwin Encarnacion was intentionally walked and stole second as Smoak struck out. Martin followed with a blast over the left-field wall that tied his season-high for homers, set in 2012 with the Yankees.
Toronto outhit New York 8-6. The game took two hours 52 minutes to play.
Notes: A moment of silence was observed before the game for Yankees legend Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday at age 90. The Hall of Fame catcher won 10 World Series championships with the Yankees. … The game was televised on ESPN in the United States for the second straight night. … It was the 10th straight sellout at Rogers Centre and 24th on the season. … The Blue Jays have a day off Thursday before closing out their nine-game homestand with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press