NEW YORK -- Henderson Alvarez did everything asked of him against a tough division rival, containing a potent Yankees lineup and giving his team a chance to win.
But his bullpen couldn't say the same thing, and one swing of the bat changed everything.
Jason Frasor allowed a grand slam to Raul Ibanez, snapping an eighth-inning tie, and the Blue Jays went on to lose, 6-3, dropping the first of a three-game set with New York at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
"[Ibanez] was supposed to pop that up," Frasor said. "It wasn't my night, it was a struggle from pitch No. 1. What can I say? I had to come to him, and he got it."
Frasor entered the game after left-handed rookie Aaron Loup surrendered back-to-back singles to Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
With two on and one out, Frasor hit Mark Teixeira to load the bases for Nick Swisher. Frasor got Swisher looking -- the second time Swisher struck out with the bases loaded on the night -- but Ibanez made Frasor pay the following at-bat.
Ibanez drilled a 3-1 fastball into the right-field seats and sent the 42,819 fans in the Bronx into a frenzy, giving the Yankees a four-run lead.
"It's definitely a situation you want to hit in," said Ibanez, who now has 12 homers and 40 RBIs. "That's what you want as a hitter. You play the game to get into situations like that. When you're in the backyard as a kid, you're in the backyard thinking, 'Bases loaded, two outs.'"
Blue Jays manager John Farrell couldn't turn to Darren Oliver to get the left-on-left matchup with Ibanez he would have preferred, as Oliver was unavailable after throwing two innings the previous game.
Farrell also defended Frasor, who the skipper has leaned on heavily this season. Frasor, however, was not willing to make any excuses.
"There is always a way to get guys out, no matter how sore you are ... you can always find a way," Frasor said. "Tonight, I didn't."
The Blue Jays attempted to make a ninth-inning rally but could only plate one run in the final frame.
Rafael Soriano struck out Colby Rasmus, who was the tying run with runners on second and third, to collect his 23rd save and end the game.
The Blue Jays suffered a potentially major blow in the eighth inning, as Jose Bautista was forced to leave the game after crushing a foul ball down the left-field line. After the follow-through, Bautista went down in obvious discomfort.
Bautista had X-rays that came back negative, and the injury is believed to be tendon related. He will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
Before the game got out of hand late, Alvarez turned in a solid effort.
The righty labored through the first inning, needing 25 pitches to get out of the frame, but managed to escape unscathed by striking out Swisher with the bases loaded to end New York's threat.
The struggles continued into the second, as he led off the inning with a walk, but then got Eric Chavez to hit into a double play. Russell Martin, however, got to him the next at-bat, hitting an opposite-field homer to right, his ninth of the year, to put New York ahead, 1-0.
Alvarez allowed another run in the third after surrendering doubles to Rodriguez and Cano to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
The 22-year-old was forced to work hard for every out and needed at least 20 pitches to get out of each of the first three innings. Alvarez, who entered the game averaging the second fewest pitches per inning in the American League at 14.9, finally settled down in the fourth, retiring the side in order on seven pitches, and kept the Yankees off the board the rest of the game.
"I felt like the first couple innings, I was dropping my elbow down and the ball was just taking off and [stayed] up in the zone," said Alvarez, who recorded his 10th quality start of the season. "I made the adjustment on that, got on top of the ball, and got more strikes."
After the Cano double, Alvarez retired nine straight at one point, and 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
He felt the Cano at-bat was a turning point for him, as that's when he noticed the mechanical issues that were plaguing him early on, and felt he was able to really utilize his changeup from that point.
Alvarez lasted six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while walking a career-high four batters, and striking out six, which matched a career high. He entered the game averaging the fewest strikeouts per nine innings among all qualified pitchers in the Majors, and it was the first time he has struck out more than four batters in a game this season.
"I thought he had a very good changeup, he had some late action to his sinker, as we've seen, and he got a key ground-ball double play to finish out the sixth inning, so an outstanding job on Henderson's part," Farrell said.
The double play that Alvarez got in the sixth was the 20th he has induced this season, which ties him with Derek Lowe for the American League lead.
The Blue Jays' offense didn't do much against Yankees starter Phil Hughes.
Adam Lind hit a solo homer -- his eighth of the year, and fifth in 17 games since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas -- in the fourth inning to cut New York's lead to 2-1.
Toronto got to Hughes one more time in the sixth. Bautista drew a one-out walk, and Edwin Encarnacion cashed him in by hitting his second double of the game to tie the score at 2.
That was all the Blue Jays could muster against the Yankees' righty. Hughes went seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits, walking three and striking out four.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.