Yankees squander chances in loss to Blue Jays

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The Yankees fell to the Blue Jays 3-2 this afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, which means the Orioles could move into a tie for first place in the American League East with a win over the Red Sox tonight. (Editor’s note: Baltimore won 4-3)

The Yankees had plenty of chances to blow this game open, but simply failed to take advantage. They loaded the bases against Ricky Romero in the first inning, but only managed a pair of sacrifice flies. The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the next four innings, but none of them came around to score.

Romero left the game after three innings with left knee discomfort, but Shawn Hill came up big by tossing three scoreless frames in his first appearance in the majors since 2010. He also got the victory.

Andy Pettitte allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings for his first loss since returning from a fractured ankle. The veteran southpaw was pulled with two runners on in the sixth before Adeiny Hechavarria delivered a go-ahead RBI double off Joba Chamberlain. Yan Gomes was caught napping around third base on the very same play, but the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Brad Lincoln, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen.

The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the hill tomorrow while Henderson Alvarez pitches for the Jays. If the American League East ends in a tie, there will be a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.