NEW YORK — After an empty trip to Yankee Stadium, the skidding Toronto Blue Jays headed home in second place.
Bryan Mitchell earned his first major league win, combining with Luis Severino and Tyler Clippard to shut down Toronto’s dangerous lineup, and the New York Yankees kept up their surprising surge with a 2-0 victory Wednesday night that completed a three-game sweep.
For the first time since Aug. 12, the Blue Jays fell out of the top spot in the AL East. They dropped a game behind new leader Boston, which won 7-2 in San Diego.
“We’re right in it. We just need either a big play or a big hit somewhere to get us going back in the right direction,” nicked-up catcher Russell Martin said. “You’re not going to see any panic from me.”
Following a day off, Toronto begins a pivotal three-game series Friday night at home against the Red Sox.
Marcus Stroman (9-7) struck out eight in five innings, but the Blue Jays lost for the fifth time in six games. They were swept for the third time this season, the first since May 16-18 by Tampa Bay.
Toronto’s power-packed team has been blanked on six occasions this year, three at Yankee Stadium.
“We’re fine. Extremely confident group of guys that we have,” Stroman said. “We’re just going through a little bit of a rough patch, but our mentality hasn’t changed for a second in this clubhouse.”
Starlin Castro homered and Brian McCann had an RBI single for the Yankees, who have won four straight and 10 of 14. They closed within 2 1/2 games of Baltimore for the second AL wild card and are 4 1/2 behind Boston.
Making an unexpected run at the postseason after trading several veteran stars for prospects this summer, the youth-infused Yankees (73-65) climbed a season-best eight games above .500.
“We’ve been playing playoff baseball really since about August 1,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We keep getting closer, and that’s the idea here. And it’s been fun.”
Helped by two double plays, Mitchell (1-0) yielded four hits over five-plus innings in his fourth career start and first major league outing this season. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched in place of injured rookie Chad Green.
Mitchell was promoted Tuesday from Triple-A after missing much of the year because of an injury to his left big toe sustained late in spring training. He became the third Yankees rookie to have a scoreless start in the past three-plus weeks.
“After the whole season, what I went through, tonight’s very rewarding,” Mitchell said. “It’s been my goal all year to get back here.”
A leadoff double by Devon Travis in the sixth ended Mitchell’s night before Severino tossed three innings of one-hit ball.
Travis got caught breaking for third on Josh Donaldson’s comebacker and was tagged out in a rundown. Severino was aided by a replay reversal in the seventh, and Edwin Encarnacion flied out to the wall in right field with a runner on to end the eighth.
Clippard, filling in as the closer with Dellin Betances and Adam Warren unavailable, struck out two in a perfect ninth to finish the five-hitter. His only other save this season came with Arizona before he was traded back to New York.
“Guys are in a good frame of mind, but physically we’re a little banged up,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
SEEKING A SPARK
Looking to shake some things up, Gibbons moved DH Jose Bautista into the cleanup spot and batted Travis leadoff. Gibbons said he was hoping to get Bautista more RBI opportunities.
The 25-year-old Stroman, who grew up on Long Island about 55 miles from Yankee Stadium, had beaten New York five straight times. He is 5-2 with a 2.10 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees.
Blue Jays LHP Francisco Liriano (back) was unavailable. … Martin (left knee) was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth. He said his knee bothered him on every swing and he felt he wasn’t helping the team at the plate. “I’m a tough guy, so I’m not really worried too much about it,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with it for a while now. And I’ve actually hit pretty well with my knee bugging me.”
Toronto RHP Marco Estrada (8-7, 3.56 ERA) starts the series opener Friday night against Red Sox RHP Rick Porcello (19-3, 3.23), the major league leader in wins.