TORONTO — Feeling confident after belting a solo shot earlier in the game, Bo Bichette stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with the clear intention of doing it again.
Looking for a sinker from reliever Clay Holmes (8-4), Bichette got one and took full advantage.
His 28th homer of the season was the difference as Toronto earned a much-needed 6-5 victory that helped the Blue Jays stay in the thick of a tight American League wild-card race.
"This is what we dream of doing," Bichette said. "I wouldn't be playing baseball if it wasn't for moments like this."
Marcus Semien also homered for the Blue Jays while George Springer chipped in with three hits and two runs. Starter Jose Berrios turned in a solid performance and closer Jordan Romano worked the ninth inning for his 22nd save.
Bichette's 28 homers are the most in one season by a shortstop in franchise history, moving him past Tony Batista's mark of 26 in 1999. None were bigger than the one that helped move the Blue Jays two games behind New York in the race for the first wild-card spot.
"Sometimes you hit those bottom of the eighth homers and they're just as big as a walkoff," Semien said.
Semien also made history with his 44th homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that set the tone after Berrios struck out the side in the top half of the frame.
Semien moved past Davey Johnson (1973 NY Mets) for most homers in a single season by a second baseman. With Springer aboard after a leadoff double, Semien turned on a 97-m.p.h. fastball from Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
"We knew the guy we were facing today," Semien said. "We had to be ready for velocity and we worked on that before the game a little bit.
"He attacked me with fastballs and I got to it."
The Yankees' seven-game win streak came to an end and their lead on Boston was trimmed to one game after the Red Sox blanked the Baltimore Orioles 6-0.
Toronto moved into a tie with the Seattle Mariners, who were also one game behind Boston entering their late game against the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees and Blue Jays, who will close out their three-game series Thursday night, both have four games left to play.
"We're in a good spot," said New York manager Aaron Boone. "I feel like the guys are having a lot of fun competing with a lot on the line. That's where you want to be this time of year."
Springer drove in Santiago Espinal with an RBI single in the second inning and Bichette made it 4-0 with his homer in the third.
Berrios, meanwhile, was in stellar form — retiring the first 14 Yankees in order — until New York scored a pair in the fifth inning.
Gleyber Torres reached on a double down the left-field line and scored on a Gio Urshela seeing-eye single. Brett Gardner followed with an RBI double.
Springer was given credit for a two-base hit in the bottom of the fifth after a communication breakdown in shallow left field.
Urshela tracked the ball from his shortstop position before pulling away at the last second in front of left-fielder Joey Gallo, who could only watch it drop. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., made the Yankees pay by ending a career-long 0-for-20 drought with an RBI double.
DJ LeMahieu led off the sixth with a double, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a Mike Judge sacrifice fly. With two down and a full count to slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Berrios then thrilled the announced crowd of 29,601 by getting the cleanup hitter on a meek groundout.
Both starters worked six innings. It was Berrios' first appearance at Rogers Centre since the province boosted the venue's capacity to a maximum of 30,000.
"It was fun and I enjoyed it," he said. "Tonight the game gave me the taste like a playoff game."
The Yankees kept chipping away and eventually tied it in the seventh when Kyle Higashioka hit a two-run single off reliever Tim Mayza.
"I really liked the way our guys competed and battled back to get into that game," Boone said. "They outlasted us tonight."
Bichette brought the home crowd back to life in the eighth with his third multi-homer game of the season, celebrating the moment with a couple of emphatic fist pumps as he rounded the bases.
Sidearmer Adam Cimber (3-4) recorded four key outs ahead of Romano for the victory. The Blue Jays outhit the Yankees 10-7.
Notes: The game took two hours 52 minutes to play. … The Blue Jays lead the major leagues with 251 homers this season. … Both Semien and Bichette reached the 100-RBI plateau. The Blue Jays are the first team since the RBI became an official stat in 1920 to have four teammates — Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez are the others — reach 100 RBIs for the first time in their careers in the same season. … Toronto ace left-hander Robbie Ray (13-6, 2.68 earned-run average) is scheduled to start the rubber game against right-hander Corey Kluber (5-3, 3.82). … The Blue Jays will wrap up their season at home this weekend against last-place Baltimore. The Yankees will return home to close out their campaign against the East Division-leading Tampa Bay Rays.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press