TORONTO -- Hard to believe the team that showed so much life on Sunday against the far-superior Tampa Bay Rays could look so lifeless against the Toronto Blue Jays. But that is what happened tonight at the Rogers Centre, as the Yankees came up flat in a dispiriting 5-2 loss. Not the return of their Captain, a home run by their internationally-detested third baseman, or an excellent outing by an unheralded reliever could seem to spark them tonight. Only good news is, with Rays losing tonight, Yankees hold at 4 1/2 games out of the wild card with 31 left to play.
Captain Quiet: Derek Jeter returned to the lineup (again!) but had a quiet night at the plate, going 0-for-3 with a walk, but he seemed to come out of the game in one piece and handled three chances in the field -- a pop-up, a grounder and a liner -- flawlessly.
Knuckling under: The Yankees managed six hits but just two runs, one unearned because of a passed ball, off R.A. Dickey. Their biggest wasted chance came in the fifth, when they loaded the bases for Robinson Cano with two outs, but Cano flied out to center to end the inning. The Yankees also got Alfonso Soriano to third with one out in the sixth, but Alex Rodriguez struck out and Lyle Overbay tapped back to the mound to strand Soriano at third.
Thrown for a Loup: Rays manager John Gibbons pulled Dickey after Austin Romine singled with one out in the seventh, but reliever Aaron Loup struck out Vernon Wells (pinch-hitting for Brett Gardner, who was 2-for-3, in a knee-jerk lefty-righty switch) and Jeter to end the inning.
Scraping knuckles: The Yankees scratched out a run off Dickey in the first inning on a leadoff single by Brett Gardner, followed by a passed ball that moved him to second. Gardner went to third on Jeter's groundout and came home on a groundout by Cano.
Fighting back: The Blue Jays tied the game off Hughes on an RBI single by Kevin Pillar in the second, and temporarily took the lead on Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single in the third. Hughes helped the process along by allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base in both innings, on a single by Brett Lawrie in the second and a walk to Jose Reyes in the third.
Ichi-NO!: The Jays chased Hughes in the fifth, with a big assist from Ichiro Suzuki. The 10-time Gold Glover inexplicably allowed Encarnacion's sacrifice fly to right clank off the heel of his glove, prolonging the inning so Adam Lind could double in one run and Moises Sierra drive in another with a sac fly that should have been the third out of the inning. Hughes kept the ball in the park tonight, but still lasted just 4 2/3 innings and got hit hard, surrendering seven hits and three earned runs. With only 31 games left and five days until roster expansion, it might be time for Girardi to make a move.
Huff and puff: David Huff came in to relieve Hughes in the fifth, and struck out three of the first four batters he faced, and five overall in 3 1/3 hitless innings. Huff, a starter in AAA, may have put himself in a position to replace Hughes in the rotation when his next turn comes up on Sept. 1.
Boo this: Proving they can be just as rude as American fans, the Rogers Centre crowd booed Alex Rodriguez mercilessly every time up, and on his second at-bat, he gave them a reason, lining one of Dickey's knucklers off the facing of the wall beyond the bullpen in right to lead off the fourth to tie the game at 2. It was A-Rod's 650th career HR, which in another time and place would have been quite the milestone. Now all it means is he is just 10 HRs from collecting a $6 million bonus from his estranged employers.