DUNEDIN, Fla. — Kyle Higashioka was behind the plate on Monday primarily because of how well he works with Gerrit Cole.
And while the battery was excellent again against the Blue Jays, Higashioka made just as much of an impact with his bat, slugging a pair of homers that propelled the Yankees to a 3-1 win at TD Ballpark.
Higashioka belted a two-run shot in the top of the fifth to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead and then added an insurance run with a mammoth shot out to left to lead off the eighth off lefty Ryan Borucki and make it 3-1.
The Blue Jays threatened in the eighth, getting a pair of two-out base runners against Darren O’Day, but O’Day got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swinging to end the inning.
Higashioka’s power versus Toronto is nothing new. He went deep three times against the Blue Jays last Sept. 16.
Meanwhile, he and Cole continued to work magic together, as Cole followed up his most dominant start as a Yankee in his previous outing with another excellent performance that ended with the right-hander retiring the last 15 batters he faced.
Cole overcame a shaky first two innings and the Yankees shook off a sluggish first four innings against Toronto left-hander Robbie Ray.
Ray, in his season debut after spending the first part of the year on the injured list with a bruised elbow suffered during spring training, didn’t allow a hit until Rougned Odor’s hard grounder past first base with one out in the fifth.
Higashioka then slammed a two-run homer to right-center to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Before that, walks by Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier in the third and Aaron Judge in the fourth were the Yankees’ only base runners.
The Blue Jays got to Cole in the bottom of the first.
Bo Bichette hit a sharp one-out single through the right side of the infield and Guerrero followed with a slower grounder that also got through the right side, this time in part due to the shift.
It sent Bichette to third and he scored on a Randal Grichuk groundout to short to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Cole quickly found himself in trouble again in the second, with a leadoff walk to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed by a liner up the middle by Rowdy Tellez. But Cole righted himself and struck out the next three batters to keep it a one-run game, but was at 43 pitches through two frames.
The right-hander shifted into overdrive and was superb the rest of the way, mowing down the Blue Jays in the process.
The Yankees turned it over to their bullpen, which brought a 10-inning scoreless streak into Monday. Justin Wilson tossed a scoreless seventh.
O’Day retired the first two batters in the eighth before Marcus Semien singled to left and Bichette walked on four pitches to bring up Guerrero, who whiffed.
Aroldis Chapman gave up a leadoff double to Grichuk in the ninth, but got Cavan Biggio, Gurriel and Tellez to earn his first save of the year.
The pitching made another light showing from the offense stand up. The bottom three hitters in the lineup had all four Yankee hits, as their hope that the 10th-inning rally against the Rays on Sunday would spark the offense fizzled.