TORONTO — Blue Jays slugger Marcus Semien set a major-league record for home runs by a second baseman when he hit his 44th of the season Wednesday against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, in a critical 6-5 victory.
Semien’s homer, a two-run drive into the left field bullpen, broke a tie with Davey Johnson (1973 for Atlanta), and gave Toronto an early lead in their September showdown against an AL wild-card rival.
Semien’s homer was Toronto’s ML-leading 249th of the season, and they ended the night with 251. But from a team standpoint, what was more important was a victory that snapped New York’s seven-game winning streak, and kept Toronto hanging around the pecking order in the hunt for the two American League wild-card spots during this final week of the season.
The loss trimmed New York’s lead on the top spot to just one game over the second-place Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, Toronto stayed just one game behind Boston for the No. 2 position, with the Seattle Mariners, also in the hunt, still to play later Wednesday night.
Four of Semien’s home runs this season have come while he was playing shortstop. But the nine-year veteran, an All-Star for the first time this season, has made 142 of his 157 starts at second base.
The homer was the only hit of the night for Semien, but the Blue Jays, as a collective, were able to get to Cole before ultimately hanging on for the win. Cole allowed five earned runs on nine hits in six innings, while striking out six.
Neither he nor Toronto starter, Jose Berrios figured in the decision. But Berrios did something most starters haven’t been able to do the last two weeks, and that’s slow the Yankees. He allowed three earned runs on four hits in six innings of work, while striking out seven.
Semien signed a one-year, $18 million contract with Toronto this season. He finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019 with Oakland, when he hit 33 homers with 92 RBIs with an .892 OPS, and is in line to be one of the most marketable free agents this offseason.
The 31-year-old Semien had played most of his career at shortstop before leaving the A’s to join the Blue Jays. The home run was his 11th this month, tied with Tyler O’Neill of the St. Louis Cardinals for most in the majors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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