NEW YORK — Yunel Escobar got a much-needed break last week when he took three days off for the birth of his child.
It’s made all the difference.
Escobar hit a two-run homer, three doubles and drove in five runs as Toronto beat the New York Yankees 8-5 Wednesday, ending CC Sabathia’s five years of dominance over the Blue Jays.
The light-hitting shortstop went 15 games without getting more than a single before he went on the paternity list. In the four games back he has six for extra bases.
“At the time of the birth he was a little frustrated with how he was performing but that three-day break allowed him to relax and come back with a more positive mindset,” injured slugger Jose Bautista said, translating for Escobar.
Escobar had a go-ahead RBI double in the third. His homer against Sabathia in the sixth gave the Blue Jays the lead again and his two-run double off Joba Chamberlain in the ninth helped secure Toronto’s first series win since July 27-29. The five RBIs matched a career high for Escobar.
J.A. Happ (3-1) overcame a season-high five walks, including an intentional pass of Derek Jeter to load the bases with one out in the fourth inning, for the Blue Jays’ second win in 10 games.
“He feels like anything positive that happens to the club is going to be welcome right now,” Escobar said. “He feels like winning a series on the road against a club like the Yankees that’s definitely a positive and he hopes it can help bring up team morale a little bit.”
The Yankees made three errors in losing for the sixth time in nine games. Their inability to win consecutive games for the first time since sweeping Texas three in a row Aug. 13-15 has hurt them in the standings. New York’s lead in the AL East would dwindle to 2 1/2 half games if Baltimore wins later Wednesday. June 24 was the last time anyone was that close.
“We didn’t play well, that’s the bottom line,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We had chances offensively: didn’t get it done. We had chances defensively: didn’t get it done.”
Four Blue Jays relievers combined to hold New York to a run and four doubles over four innings.
Brandon Lyon opened the eighth by giving up consecutive doubles to pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin, whose grounder bounced high off third base to make it 6-5.
Colby Rasmus, a late-game entrant, made a diving catch on Ichiro Suzuki’s sinking liner and Lyon struck out Eric Chavez and got Jeter, with the crowd chanting his name, to fly out to right.
Casey Janssen pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save after blowing an opportunity in the ninth inning Monday night.
“Today epitomized a game in which we had contributions from a number of guys,” manager John Farrell said.
Sabathia (13-4) was undefeated over his last nine starts against Toronto — 8-0 with a 2.48 ERA — since the beginning of his Cy Young Award season of 2007 with Cleveland.
In his second outing since coming off the disabled list, the big lefty was hurt by third baseman Jayson Nix’s fielding error in the third inning that led to three unearned runs. Escobar’s eighth homer in the sixth made it 5-4 and came after right fielder Andruw Jones made a diving catch on Adam Lind’s liner but lost the ball as he rolled over his glove. Jones tried to sell the catch by holding up the ball — flashing a sneaky grin — but the umpires weren’t buying it.
Toronto added a run on a squeeze play in the eighth with Jeff Mathis batting and Escobar on third after he led off with his second double.
Sabathia gave up at least five runs for the sixth time this year. He struck out eight in seven innings.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Sabathia said. “It’s all my fault, obviously.”
Jones and Curtis Granderson drove in runs after Jeter led off the first with a single and Nick Swisher walked. Granderson added a two-run double in the third to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead after Happ walked two and threw a wild pitch.
In the fourth he got himself in trouble again, starting off the inning by walking Nix and giving up a double to Suzuki. With one out, Happ gave Jeter an intentional free pass with Swisher, batting .367 over his last 21 games, due up.
Happ struck out Swisher and Robinson Cano.
“It wanted to try to get ahead, try to stay with my strengths,” Happ said about facing them.
Happ pitched a quick fifth and was done for the day, having allowed four hits and four runs. He struck out six. It was Happ’s second win against the Yankees since coming over in a trade with Houston on July 20.
NOTES: The Ugandan Little League team, the first squad from Africa to make it to the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa., visited with the Yankees before the game. The boys met Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They were given a clubhouse tour by Girardi, including the players-only facilities, and watched batting practice from the dugout. In the first innings, they also helped the Bleacher Creatures do the “roll call” in the first inning. … The Blue Jays play Tampa Bay. RHP Carlos Villanueva (6-4) starts for Toronto on Thursday. LHP Matt Moore starts for the Rays. … The Yankees have a day off then play the Orioles.