TORONTO -- No matter how hard they try to gain traction in the American League wild-card race, the New York Yankees keep spinning their wheels.
With yet another chance to gain ground on the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners -- and with an early three-run lead -- the bats suddenly went quiet. Brandon McCarthy, who had been humming along, suddenly came unglued. And just like that, a pivotal road trip ends with a 3-4 record, and the Yankees remain on the outside looking in with another day scratched off the calendar.
Considering all the circumstances involved, this 4-3 defeat to the hopeless Toronto Blue Jays has to be a leading candidate for worst loss of the season.
Winner by a hand: The Blue Jays scored the go-ahead run when Steve Tolleson, running for catcher Dioner Navarro (walk), snuck his hand onto home plate just before Francisco Cervelli could slap a tag on him on Munenori Kawasaki's single to right field off Dellin Betances in the seventh inning. The run completed a Jays comeback after the Yankees had taken a 3-0 lead, which was given back by McCarthy on three swings of the bat in the sixth and seventh innings (see below).
Happ-y start: Brett Gardner greeted Toronto starter J.A. Happ by lining his second pitch of the game into the mesh above the right field wall. It was Gardner's 16th home run of the season, by far a career high, and his fifth leadoff homer of the season.
Cerv one up: Cervelli, who tripled in the second inning only to be stranded by a Stephen Drew strikeout, singled in the Yankees' second run of the game in the fourth after singles by Martin Prado and Chase Headley.
Round-tripper: Gardner made his second tour of the bases in the fifth inning, tripling into the gap in left-center and scoring when Jose Reyes foolishly tried to throw him out at third base, only to airmail the ball into the Blue Jays' dugout, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Gardner later had a double, too. Needing only a single to both hit for the cycle and tie the game in the ninth inning, he grounded out hard to first base for the second out.
Canadian rakin': McCarthy followed his best inning of the game -- a three-strikeout fifth -- by allowing two monstrous solo homers back-to-back to Melky Cabrera (his third in 12 career at-bats against McCarthy) and Jose Bautista (who has now homered in five straight games, including all three in this series) with two out in the sixth. The power surge cut the Yankees' lead to 3-2.
Tying one on: McCarthy allowed a third home run to Edwin Encarnacion in the seventh inning, completing the Blue Jays' comeback from a 3-0 deficit. After McCarthy walked the next hitter, Navarro, Girardi replaced him with Betances. McCarthy had been pitching brilliantly through five but came apart in a hurry.
Joey goes bats: Girardi responded angrily to a pregame question about Masahiro Tanaka returning to New York by criticizing the Rogers Centre weight room, which he described as "smaller than this area here," indicating the dugout. The story was picked up by at least one Canadian website.
What's next: No labor on Labor Day for the Yankees, who have their second-to-last day off of the season before launching into a nine-game homestand, starting with three against the Boston Red Sox beginning Tuesday night. The Yankees' probables: Shane Greene (4-1, 3.09) on Tuesday, Hiroki Kuroda (9-8, 3.88) on Wednesday, and Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.24). Right now, the Red Sox are going with the same pitcher all three games: Mr. TBA. All three games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m.