TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are certainly relishing their role as playoff spoilers.
The Jays got seven shutout innings from Brandon Morrow, and Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia homered as Toronto took the first game of a four-game series with the AL East-leading New York Yankees 6-0 Thursday.
It was welcome news for the idle Baltimore Orioles, who moved within a single game of the Yankees in the battle for the division title.
Earlier in the week, the Jays helped out the Yankees by splitting a four-game series with Baltimore.
"A solid outing on his part," Jays manager John Farrell said of Morrow's performance. "The use of all four pitches tonight enabled him to take advantage of the velocity that he did have. But I think more important was the overall mix of pitches rather than just pure velocity."
Lawrie got things started for Toronto with his 10th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the third. Edwin Encarnacion drove in two more runs in the fifth with a double to right. Toronto added its fifth run in the bottom of the seventh when Lawrie scored on a fielder's choice, giving Encarnacion his third RBI of the game and his 110th of the season.
Arencibia concluded Toronto's scoring with a solo homer to left in the bottom of the eighth off David Aardsma. The Yankees reliever, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery, was making his first major league appearance since 2010.
"We know what's at stake right now, and we've just got to go out there and keep picking up wins. That's what it boils down to," Yankees first baseman Nick Swisher said. "We've got a little six-game playoff race."
After Morrow's four-hit outing, Brad Lincoln and Darren Oliver threw one inning apiece to complete the shutout.
"I just stayed with a good mix of everything all night and tried to keep them off balance and not fall into patterns," said Morrow (9-7), who had missed more than two months at midseason due to a side muscle injury. "You always want to try and finish up strong. It takes a little while to get back into a groove (after a layoff), but I've felt good the whole time.
"Tonight I got back into a little bit better rhythm like I was in earlier in the season with all four pitches, mixing in the curveball and the changeup quite a bit more."
Ivan Nova (12-8) gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings to take the loss.
The Yankees came close to tying the game in their next at-bat after Lawrie gave the Jays the lead, but some fine defense foiled them.
After Robinson Cano singled, Swisher hit a ball to the gap in left-center. Anthony Gose tracked the ball down to make the catch just before crashing into the wall, then launched a perfect throw to second baseman Kelly Johnson, who then caught Cano at first. Apparently thinking Swisher had an extra-base hit, Cano was rounding second when Gose made the catch and was thrown out trying to scramble back.
"(Cano) probably got a bit too far, but it's a great play to make," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, praising Gose's ability to cover a lot of distance in tracking the ball to start the double play.
"(Cano) was maybe a little aggressive, but you don't want our guys being passive. (Gose) made a great play."
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who bruised his left foot on a foul ball Tuesday and sat out Wednesday, returned to the lineup as the designated hitter. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and a hit by pitch. Rodriguez might be able to play third base Friday.
NOTES: Shortstop Yunel Escobar made his first start in Toronto since his suspension for wearing a homophobic slur on his eye black. He was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos in his first plate appearance. Escobar went 0-for-4. ... In addition to three more games in Toronto, the Yankees finish the season with three at home against the Boston Red Sox. ... Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (strained left calf) participated in a simulated game at Tampa, taking seven at-bats and playing an inning in the field, according to Girardi. The team hopes Teixeira will be ready to rejoin the lineup before the end of the regular season. ... Hiroki Kuroda (14-11, 3.34 ERA) gets the start for the Yankees on Friday, while the Jays will counter with Chad Jenkins (0-2, 4.24 ERA).