NEW YORK (AP) — George Springer celebrated his 34th birthday with his 57th career leadoff homer, Bo Bichette and Alejandro Kirk hit two-run homers and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the New York Yankees 7-1 on Tuesday night.
Toronto began the night one game ahead of Seattle and Texas for the second American League wild card. The Yankees entered six games back for the last AL wild card, needing to overcome Seattle and Texas.
Yusei Kikuchi (10-6) was pulled as a precaution one batter into the sixth because of a left upper trap muscle cramp after being checked out by athletic trainer Jose Ministral and the Blue Jays expect the left-hander to make his next start. Kikucki allowed one run and four hits in five-plus innings for his first win since Aug. 2 and reached double-digit wins for the first time.
Springer reached 20 homers for the eighth time when he connected off Clarke Schmidt (9-9) and walked ahead of Bichette’s first homer since Aug. 20.
“Happy 34th birthday to Georgie, the young man,” Toronto manager John Schneider said.
Springer leadoff homers trail only Rickey Henderson's 81. Springer homered for the first time on his birthday, becoming the 16th Blue Jays player to achieve the feat and the first since Randal Grichuk against Texas on Aug. 13, 2019.
“I’m just happy to help out there and my job is to hopefully be on base for the guys behind me,” Springer said. “For me to hit a home run, that’s cool, it’s great. I’m not trying to (homer) but for us to take an early lead is obviously big and I think it allowed us to just kind of be who we are.”
Kirk padded the lead with a two-run shot in the ninth and Kevin Kiermaier scored on an error by rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe.
Bichette reached three times and took third when third baseman Oswald Peraza committed a throwing error on a grounder by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Bichette gave Toronto a 2-1 lead when Cavan Biggio’s single dropped in front of centre-fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Bichette hit a 390-foot shot for his first homer since Aug. 20 after Springer took two close pitches for the walk.
“I’m just trying to get to first base,” Springer said. “I know who’s up behind me.”
Bichette is 7-for-39 in 10 games since returning from a second injured list stint due to a strained quadriceps without a rehab assignment. The shortstop reached three times for the second time since coming back Sept. 8.
“I just had to figure myself out and I feel like I’m in a good place now,” Bichette said.
“It’s kind of a tall ask having a guy come back and not going on a rehab assignment and get your timing at the big league level,” Schneider said. “I think if there’s anyone who can do it it’s Bo.”
Kikuchi was lifted after walking DJ LeMahieu to start the sixth. Yimi Garcia got Giancarlo Stanton to bounce into a double to end the sixth.
Trevor Richards and Jordan Hicks pitched a perfect inning apiece before Kirk connected for the first time since July 29.
Gleyber Torres hit an RBI double in the first as the Yankees (76-75) dropped to one game over .500 with 11 games to play. New York struck out 12 times and was held to one run or fewer for the 27th time.
“Just not a great night for us offensively,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Schmidt allowed four runs and four hits in five innings. The right-hander allowed more than three earned runs for the second time in his last 21 starts.
Blue Jays: 1B Brandon Belt (back spasms) took swings in the batting cage. … RHP Adam Cimber (right shoulder impingement) pitched a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance for triple-A Buffalo.
Yankees: OF Everson Pereira (hamstring) has a low grade strain and the team will determine in the next few days if he needs an injured list stint.
Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (11-9, 3.40 ERA) opposes New York RHP Michael King (4-6, 2.77) on Wednesday.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB
Larry Fleisher, The Associated Press