NEW YORK (AP) — Gleyber Torres sent a fastball soaring, started jogging toward first base and raised his right arm about the time a young boy in the first row of the right field short porch caught the ball on the fly.
Torres followed his go-ahead, three-run homer with a two-run single and led the surging New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Wedesday for their 15th win in 17 games.
“My swing is getting better and better,” Torres said. “I think confidence is back, and that is the most important for me.”
A heralded phenom who is just 25, Torres came up to the Yankees in 2018 and became an All-Star in each of his first two seasons, hitting 62 home runs. But he slumped for the next two seasons, totaling just 12 long balls.
“I got too many opportnities to do things for my team and I missed. I failed,” Torres said.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone benched Torres for six of this season’s first 25 games, including opening day, when Torres’ tying sacrifice fly in the 10th helped the Yankees beat Boston.
Torres had a game-ending single against Cleveland on April 23, a walk-off home run in the opener of Sunday’s doubleheader against Texas and drove in all the runs in the series finale against the Blue Jays.
Torres’ fourth-inning homer off José Berríos on on 0-2 fastball ended an 0-for-11 skid and gave New York a 3-1 lead. After Toronto closed, Torres singled in the sixth against Trevor Richards.
Torres has 16 RBIs in his last 15 games and four home runs in his last 11. Overall, he is batting .222 with 18 RBIs and five homers — four to the opposite field
“I think it’s a little bit mechanical. I think it’s a little bit maturity, I think it’s a little bit work and routine,” said Boone, who cited Torres for getting his hips and lower body better aligned this season. “He’s had to fight for some playing time here early in the year, and he’s responded to that in a way you’d hope.”
New York finished a two-game sweep to win its seventh straight series and improved to a major league-leading 22-8, its best 30-game start since 2003. The Yankees are 13-0 when scoring five runs or more.
“We’ve won in a lot of different ways,” Boone said. “It’s been pitching some days, maybe a baserunning play. We’ve had our handful of games where we’ve scored a bunch of runs and had a couple of blowout games. And we’ve scrapped and found ways late. … That’s built a lot of confidence in that room, that we know we don’t have to lean on one thing on a given night.”
Toronto has lost a season-high four straight and seven of nine overall, dropping to 3-6 against New York.
On a sloppy day for the Blue Jays, Bo Bichette failed to advance to third on an errant pitch following his fifth-inning double. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. then struck out, slammed his bat against the ground and snapped the lumber over his left knee.
After Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa bobbled Santiago Espinal’s two-out grounder in the sixth for the first of his two errors, Alejandro Kirk tripped over second base and was tagged by Torres after initially beating the throw.
There didn’t appear to be any carryover from the Yankees’ 6-5 win the previous night, a game that turned testy and saw three Blue Jays ejected. Guerrero was hit by a pitch on the left elbow pad in the first inning, a plunking that didn’t raise any issues.
Jameson Taillon (3-1) allowed Toronto’s first three batters to reach and fell behind when Teoscar Hernández grounded into a forceout, then settled down and allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Berríos (2-2) gave up five runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 5.82.
Toronto got sacrifice flies from Matt Chapman in the seventh off Michael King and George Springer in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman. Bichette hit a long drive just foul before striking out as he swung under a 100 mph pitch, and Guerrero hit a game-ending popout as Aroldis Chapman remained perfect in eight save chances.
“It’s early,” DJ LeMahieu said after scoring twice, “but I’m very excited where we’re at.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he will not discuss publicly whether any contract talks are going on with Aaron Judge. The outfielder is eligible for arbitration, with a hearing possible up until June 24, and can become a free agent after the World Series. Judge rejected an eight-year contract worth $230.5 million to $234.5 million, the difference to have been determined in arbitration for this year’s salary, and said he didn’t intend to negotiate again until after the season.
INF-OF Cavan Biggio, who hasn’t played for the Blue Jays since April 24 following a positive COVID-19 test, was 2 for 2 with a two-run single and a double as a DH for Triple-A Buffalo against Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night. … C Danny Jansen, out with a strained oblique since April 10, played five innings behind the plate and went 1 for 2 with a double for Class A Dunedin against Tampa.
Blue Jays: RHP Kevin Gauman (3-1) starts Friday’s series opener at Tampa Bay.
Yankees: RHP Luis Gil makes his season debut in Thursday’s series opener at the Chicago White Sox, who start RHP Dylan Cease (3-1).
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press