NEW YORK — With a chance to ice a win for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen froze up.
Chase Headley hit a tiebreaking single that deflected off the wrist of reliever Brett Cecil, and the New York Yankees rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to beat Toronto 4-3 in chilly conditions April 8.
“We imploded,” Manager John Gibbons said. “Wind-blown hit, then we hit a couple of guys.”
Michael Pineda pitched six solid innings for the Yankees, who improved to 30-6 at home against the Blue Jays since May 24, 2011. Jacoby Ellsbury scored twice and reached base safely all four times up.
New York took advantage of mistakes by Toronto’s bullpen, fighting back from a two-run deficit for its first victory of the season after the 40-year-old Dickey tossed 6 1-3 effective innings.
“Shoot, he was great. Cold weather, drizzle to start things off, you never know how it’s going to be. But he was great,” Gibbons said. “We coughed it up.”
In front of New York’s smallest crowd for a home game in 11 years, Andrew Miller worked a perfect ninth in his Yankees debut for the second save of his career.
Toronto pushed its lead to 3-1 in the eighth when Jose Bautista scored on a throwing error by catcher Brian McCann. But the bullpen couldn’t hold it.
Pinch-hitter Chris Young opened the bottom half with a bloop double that eluded rookie second baseman Devon Travis. Ellsbury singled, and Aaron Loup (0-1) loaded the bases when he hit Brett Gardner with a pitch.
“It was a fastball in, and it got away,” Loup said.
Young scored on a wild pitch by Cecil, who forced in the tying run when he plunked McCann with a pitch. Headley then hit a one-hopper that caromed off Cecil’s right wrist and past shortstop to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
In retrospect, Gibbons and Cecil both thought it was probably a double-play ball if the pitcher didn’t touch it. “I thought it was coming a little slower than it was,” Cecil said.
Dellin Betances (1-0) got the win.
Many players wore knit hats and hooded sweat shirts during batting practice, and the game began in a steady drizzle on a 44-degree night at a mostly empty Yankee Stadium. The announced crowd of 31,020 was New York’s smallest at home since Sept. 23, 2004, at the old ballpark across 161st street.
The rain soon stopped, but the wind picked up and the raw chill never dissipated. Pitching in short sleeves, Pineda held the Blue Jays to two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.
(MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer)