NEW YORK – The first-place Toronto Blue Jays put space between themselves and the New York Yankees on Saturday, sweeping a doubleheader that featured 20 innings, 31 combined runs and a 33-minute rain delay.
Manager John Gibbons used 12 different pitchers in the twin-bill, though, and needed veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to save Toronto’s bullpen some work Sunday before a much-needed day off Monday.
Dickey (10-11) pitched into the eighth, but Toronto’s offence, without injured stars Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion, struggled against New York’s Masahiro Tanaka in a 5-0 loss.
Tanaka pitched like the ace New York needed, holding Toronto to four hits over seven innings. The Yankees pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Blue Jays after Toronto had scored 30 runs in the first three games of the series.
“We came in feeling real good and we won three out of four,” Gibbons said. “We feel good leaving here.”
Tanaka (12-6) struck out seven, walked none and threw 76 of 108 pitches for strikes. He is 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his last four starts.
On Aug. 15, he beat the Blue Jays with a five-hitter in Toronto.
“He was good again today,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He’s been tough on us.”
Dustin Ackley homered and had three RBIs for the Yankees, who snapped a five-game losing streak.
READ MORE: Blue Jays sweep Yankees in double-header
The Blue Jays said before the game that Tulowitzki will miss at least two weeks after cracking his left shoulder blade in a collision during the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader. Encarnacion was held out after aggravating a finger injury Saturday.
“It’s a very small crack,” Toronto’s general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Tulowitzki’s injury. “Just talking with the doctors, if they had to guess, and really it’s only a guess at this point, it could be two-to-three weeks and then he could be back for October.”
Of Encarnacion, Anthonpoulos said: “I would expect and hope that he’s back during the Atlanta series.”
The Yankees sent Dickey to his first loss since before the All-Star break. The Blue Jays and Yankees play three more times in Toronto from Sept. 21-23.
Dickey (10-11) gave up five runs and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer had been 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 11 starts since losing at the Chicago White Sox on July 9.
Ackley, starting because he was 4 for 11 against Dickey coming in, homered for the first time since July 8 for Seattle against Detroit.
New York went ahead in the second on sacrifice flies by Ackley and Didi Gregorius. Ackley, acquired from the Mariners on July 30, hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and Alex Rodriguez added an RBI double in the eighth that chased Dickey.
“Today is a great example of what the formula is,” Rodriguez said. “Strong pitching, get the ball to our strong bullpen and hit the ball out of the park.”
Rodriguez was honoured by the Yankees before the game for his 3,000th hit on June 19, another step in thawing the formerly tense relationship between A-Rod and team stemming from his one-year drug suspension and litigation when he tried to avoid discipline.
Toronto acquired infielder Darwin Barney from the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league catcher Jack Murphy.
Blue Jays: General manager Alex Anthopoulos said second baseman Devon Travis (shoulder) has yet to take swings or play any games and they are “running out of time” for the rookie to return.
Blue Jays: After the off day, the Blue Jays open a series at Atlanta on Tuesday with Mark Buehrle (14-7, 3.72) starting, opposed by Julio Teheran (10-7, 4.38).
Yankees: CC Sabathia (4-9, 5.16) starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Tampa Bay, which starts Erasmo Ramirez (10-5, 3.96).