Results tagged ‘ Adam Lind ’

D-Rob called on to avoid sweep at Toronto

Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances Wednesday night. The manager wanted to avoid being swept in Toronto as the Yankees had done to the Blue Jays last week at Yankee Stadium. Toward that effort, Girardi did not hesitate to have David Robertson work a five-out save to salvage at least one victory in the three-game series.

The Yankees came back from Tuesday night’s sloppy loss to turn back the Blue Jays, 5-3, and end a four-game losing streak. The Jays jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jose Reyes hit the first pitch from Hiroki Kuroda for a home run, but the Yankees attacked Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison for four runs in the third and held the lead with solid ensemble work from the bullpen.

Kuroda earned his first victory in five starts since May 28, although he had not pitched that poorly (3.33 ERA) during the four-game stretch in which he had two losses and two no-decisions. The Japanese righthander gave up two runs on a two-out single by Melky Cabrera in the fifth that made it a one-run game but worked out of trouble in the sixth and departed with one out and a runner on first base in the seventh with the Yankees up by two runs.

Shawn Kelley gave up a single to Reyes but then got Cabrera on a fly to right. Girardi brought in lefthander Matt Thornton to face lefty-swinging Adam Lind. During the at-bat, Anthony Gose and Reyes, two of the fastest players in the major leagues, pulled off a gutsy double steal. Thornton got the job done, however, as Lind hit the ball right back to the pitcher for the third out.

Adam Warren started the eighth, but when he gave up a one-out single to Dioner Navarro Girardi summoned Robertson. D-Rob had not pitched in a week and was plenty strong. He finished off the eighth with two strikeouts, then got another punchout to start the ninth before inducing two ground balls for his 18th save.

The Yankees were only 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and had two runners thrown out trying to steal but got key hits when it mattered. Getting a rare start behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli doubled home the Yanks’ first run in the third inning. The first of Jacoby Ellsbury’s three hits was a two-out single that sent home Cervelli. Mark Teixeira followed with his 14th home run to make the score 4-1.

After the Jays closed to 4-3, the Yankees scored a run without a hit in the seventh on two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by Teixeira.

The Yankees can now exhale Thursday, their first day off after playing for 23 straight days. It is also Derek Jeter’s 40th birthday. He and his teammates could surely use the rest.

Jays a different club away from Stadium

What a difference a venue makes. Last week at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the first-place Blue Jays that let Toronto know it was not going to run away and hide in the American League East. That sweep ran to 16 games the Yankees’ winning streak at home against the Jays.

The return engagement at Rogers Centre was a different story, at least for Monday night’s series opener. The Blue Jays struck early and often in their own building to end Chase Whitley’s good luck charm on the road with an 8-3 victory.

The Yankees had been 5-0 in road games started by Whitley, the Triple A call-up who has done a splendid job in plugging up one of the holes in the injury-riddled rotation. The Alabama righthander did not have it this night, however, as Toronto burst out to a 7-0 lead after two innings. That marked as many runs as Whitley allowed over his four previous starts combined covering 24 2/3 innings.

Melky Cabrera, who has tormented his former teammates since he left after the 2009 season, got the ball rolling for the Jays with a one-out double in the first inning. Adam Lind, batting in the 3-hole with Jose Bautista out because of hamstring problems, knocked in Cabrera with a single.

Lind did quite a bit more damage in the six-run Toronto second inning. The Jays loaded the bases with none out on three straight singles. A fielder’s choice and an RBI single by Cabrera made the score 3-0 before Lind broke the game open with a three-run home run over the center field wall.

Cabrera extended his hitting streak against the Yankees to 20 games. During the stretch, he has batted .349 with seven doubles, one triple and one home run in 83 at-bats. Melky has reached base safely in all 22 career games against his former club. The last player with a 20-game hitting streak against the Yankees was also named Cabrera, the Tigers’ Miguel (no relation) from 2006-10.

Whitley, who had walked only four batters in his seven prior starts totaling 38 2/3 innings, walked the first two guys up in the fourth and appeared gassed. Dioner Navarro singled to drive in the Blue Jays’ eighth run, which forced manager Joe Girardi to go to the bullpen.

The relief work of David Huff and Shawn Kelley were bright spots for the Yankees. Huff pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed one hit and two walks with three strikeouts and a wild pitch. Kelley struck out the side in the eighth and gave up one hit.

It was the first poor outing for Whitley, who was charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings as his ERA hiked from 2.56 to 4.07. The righthander allowed 11 hits and three walks with one strikeout and one wild pitch.

Marcus Stroman, who could not get through the fourth inning last week at the Stadium, pitched a solid eight for the Blue Jays this time. The righthander from Long Island gave up one run on Mark Teixeira’s 13th homer and only two other hits, singles by Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki, and had seven strikeouts.

Considering the state of the Yankees’ offense these days, the hole Whitley put his team in was too great out of which for his teammates to climb. The Yankees did score a couple of runs in the ninth off Chad Jenkins. Yangervis Solarte, who entered the game in the eighth, stopped a 0-for-28 slump with an RBI single, and Kelly Johnson doubled in a run.

Those were the Yankees’ only runs other than the two from a pair of homers by Teixeira over the past 27 innings for the Yankees, who fell 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, a sign that they were no longer at Yankee Stadium.

Patsies most of the year, Blue Jays jolt Yankees

When you come right down to it, the Yankees have the Blue Jays to thank for being in the wild-card chase at all. The Yanks bullied Toronto most of the year except this week. What a time for the Blue Jays to turn the tide.

The Yankees are crawling home from this trip. A 4-6 record through Baltimore, Boston and Toronto was not what they needed to make headway in the wild-card race. Losing two of three to the Blue Jays could turn out to be the killer series for the Yankees, who scored in only three of the 27 innings at Rogers Centre the past three nights.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi will take his lumps in the press and from fans for bringing in Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning of a 3-1 game. Chamberlain, once a lights-out reliever, had fallen down the bullpen scale so much this year that he had not been used often in high-leverage spots, which made his appearance curious to say the least.

Walking weak-hitting Munenori Kawasaki to start the inning was a harbinger of what was to come. Brett Lawrie followed with a ground single through the right side. With lefthander Cesar Cabral throwing in the bullpen, Girardi stayed with Chamberlain against lefty-swinging Adam Lind, who crushed a 2-1 slider for a three-run home run that hit the Yankees like a dagger.

Actually, Yankees pitchers were on the tightrope all night. Hiroki Kuroda somehow got through six innings by allowing only three runs, thanks to some stupid base running by the Jays and even worse clutch hitting. Toronto was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base over the first four innings.

It was another disappointing outing for Kuroda, who over his past seven starts is 0-5 with a 6.37 ERA. The Yankees’ rotation has had an unproductive month. The starting pitchers combined are 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA in September.

As ineffective as the pitching has been, the offense has been worse. The Yankees scored only six runs in the three games at Toronto. Curtis Granderson apart, they did nothing against Jays starter Todd Redmond (4-2). Granderson tagged him for a solo homer in the sixth, but Redmond gave up only three other hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

The Yankees are four games back in the loss column in the wild-card standings in which five clubs are ahead of them for two available berths. The Yanks come home into the netherworld of inter-league play this weekend against the Giants and can only hope they can cut their deficit to Tampa Bay to three games or less when the Rays come to Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.

Blue Jays no patsies this time

So the Blue Jays did not roll over and play dead for a change. That was a tough wake-up call for the Yankees who lost ground in the race for a postseason berth. The Yankees have had their way with the Jays this year but not Monday night as Toronto emerged victorious against the Yanks for the first time since April 21 and only the second time in 14 meetings.

R.A. Dickey, who lost his previous two starts against the Yankees this year, had the upper hand this time with 6 1/3 sound innings. The first-inning run he yielded was not earned due to a passed ball by catcher Josh Thole. The other run Dickey allowed, in the fifth, was quite earned since it came on Alex Rodriguez’s 650th career home run.

Brett Gardner also reached a milestone in the fifth inning with a two-out single that was the 500th hit of his major-league career. The Yankees did not have much else to celebrate offensively. The Jays bullpen shut down the Yanks for 2 2/3 innings with Casey Janssen notching his 24th save.

Derek Jeter returned to the lineup but had a quiet night going 0-for-3 with a walk.

Phil Hughes watched his record fall to an unsightly 4-13 with a 4.91 ERA as he failed to pitch the minimum number of innings – five – to qualify for a winning decision for the 10th time in 25 starts this year. Hughes gave up the 1-0 lead the Yankees gave him in the first two innings later and was knocked out in a three-run Toronto fifth that was fueled in part by a rare error from 10-time Gold Glove winner Ichiro Suzuki.

Hughes nearly worked out a second-inning jam, but Kevin Pillar poked a soft single to center field that tied the score. A leadoff walk to Jose Reyes in the third was asking for trouble. Edwin Encarnacion singled sharply to left to score Reyes, who had advanced to second on a bunt, that gave the Blue Jays the lead.

A-Rod’s homer got the Yanks even again, but the game got away from Hughes in the fifth. He gave up a double to Reyes with one out and a single to Ryan Goins. Reyes was held at third, which gave Hughes a chance to get out of the inning without a run scoring. Encarnacion lifted a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to score Reyes but was more damaging when Ichiro dropped the ball while leaping on the warning track.

Instead of two outs and a runner on first, the Blue Jays had a run in, one out and runners on first and third. Adam Lind doubled down the right field line to score Goins and after an intentional walk to Brett Lawrie loaded the bases Moises Sierra delivered another run with a sacrifice fly.

Lefthander David Huff took over at that point and was one of the few highlights for the Yanks. He struck out Thole to put an end to the fifth and tacked on three more scoreless innings with four strikeouts. It was an important contribution because Huff kept manager Joe Girardi from having to use several relievers to complete a game in which his starter made an early exit.

Girardi said after the game that there were no plans to remove Hughes from the rotation despite the righthander’s troubles. Hughes is winless with a 5.64 ERA in his past nine starts since July 2 and is 1-9 with a 5.32 ERA over his past 13 starts.

With the Athletics winning at Detroit, the Yankees fell 4 ½ games behind for the second wild-card berth.

Yanks’ tandem an upgrade at catcher

So where is Russell Martin these days? Oh, that’s right; he took off for Pittsburgh as a free agent in the past off-season because the Pirates came up with a second year in their contract offer. Good for him; I hope he is happy.

I was thinking about Martin during the Yankees-Blue Jays game Sunday at Toronto when Chris Stewart hit a home run in the third inning and threw out Melky Cabrera trying to steal second base in the fifth.

I do not mean to pick on Martin as much as those who kept reporting all winter about how the Yankees blew it by not conceding to the catcher’s contract demands and would regret it. Look at what Stewart and Francisco Cervelli have done so far this year. Does anyone miss Russell Martin all that much?

The Cervelli-Stewart tandem was treated in a few media outlets as some sort of joke during spring training, but the duo have been a major part of the Yankees’ good start that hit a bump Sunday with an 8-4 loss. Stewart was involved in all the Yankees’ scoring innings. He got the Yanks on the board with his first home run of the season, began the two-run rally in the fifth with a single and bunted Jayson Nix to third base with one out in the sixth that preceded the sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner that gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead at that point.

In the first two games of the series – both Yankees victories – Cervelli was behind the plate and had 3-for-8 (.375) with two doubles and two runs scored. He has gotten the bulk of the playing time of the two catchers, with 42 at-bats to Stewart’s 17, but manager Joe Girardi insists that they are sharing the position. However the breakdown, the catching situation has been in good hands.

Cervelli and Stewart are batting a combined .322 with a .525 slugging percentage, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI in 59 at-bats. Martin? He is hitting .216 with a .353 slugging percentage, three doubles, one home run and three RBI in 51 at-bats. Again, not to pick on the guy, but I cannot remember just when it was that Russell Martin became the second coming of Thurman Munson, which seemed to be an off-season theme in some circles.

Martin had two decent seasons with the Yankees. Last year, he showed renewed power (21 home runs) and had some memorable game-winning hits, including a huge homer against the Mets, but hit .211 for the season. Now I realize that the seamheads who adore the boutique stats don’t make much of batting average anymore, but .211 is still .211, which is not good by any measure.

Stewart had his hands full Sunday with another erratic outing from Ivan Nova, who threw 101 pitches but was gone after giving up a walk and a double to the first two batters in the sixth that the Jays turned into a four-run inning with RBI hits off relievers Boone Logan and David Phelps to regain the lead they would not relinquish again.

The leadoff walk in the sixth was to Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind. I do not know what the Yankees’ scouting report was on Lind, but they sure pitched to him carefully in the series. Lind had five plate appearances and walked in every one, including all four times he stepped to the plate Sunday.

It was nonetheless a positive series for the Yankees, who move on to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a three-game set against another American League East rival, the Rays, who swept the Athletics over the weekend at Tropicana Field.

Despite being booed loudly and repeatedly in the city where he was once a favorite, Vernon Wells will miss Toronto. He had quite series, going 7-for-15 (.467) with a double and two home runs. He also made the defensive play of the game Sunday in the third inning with a fence-climbing catch in left field to rob Edwin Encarnacion of a potential run-scoring, extra-base hit and begin a rally-killing double play.

Gardner also found Toronto to his liking, as usual. He had 5-for-14 (.357) in the series with a double, a home run, a stolen base, two runs and two RBI. Gardner is a .370 career hitter at Rogers Centre with 18 runs, six doubles, six triples, one home run and eight RBI in 30 games.

Ibanez’s power makes up for loss of Gardner’s speed

A home run derby was expected to break out Monday night at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Blue Jays, the top two power-hitting teams in the major leagues. That may well occur throughout this three-game series, and indeed the long ball factored heavily in the Yanks’ 6-3 victory in the opener of the set.

The game had been a pitcher’s duel for the most part. It was a 2-2 game into the eighth inning with each team getting one of its runs on homers – Russell Martin for the Yankees and Adam Lind for the Jays.

Raul Ibanez’s 10th career grand slam in the eighth, off righthander Jason Frasor, was the deciding blow, of course, and a majestic one, landing in the right field second deck. The Yankees loaded the bases on singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a hit by pitch of Mark Teixeira. Frasor got a big strikeout of Nick Swisher, who took a slider for strike three, but fell behind 3-1 in the count to Ibanez, who got all of a 93-mile-per-hour fastball.

“I wasn’t thinking grand slam in that spot,” Ibanez said. “With two out, you don’t necessarily want a ball in the air. I was just trying to hit a line drive.”

Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes suggested that Frasor thought Ibanez would be taking on 3-1.

“Oh, no,” Ibanez said, laughing. “I was ready to hit my pitch if I got it.”

It was the 144th home run of the season for the Yankees. Toronto is second with 131, but its total may not rise very much if right fielder Jose Bautista is out of the lineup for a stretch. The slugger with the most home runs over the past two seasons was forced out of Monday night’s game in the eighth inning when he injured his left wrist on a swing that produced a scorching foul ball down the left field line.

X-rays were negative. Bautista will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Tuesday and will probably not play the remainder of the series.

Before Monday night, the Yankees and Jays had played only two games against each other May 16-17 at Rogers Centre with Toronto winning both. The Jays’ rotation has been decimated by injuries since, so much so that manager John Farrell is operating with a 14-man staff.

Hughes began the season by giving up home runs in each of his first 12 starts, but he did not allow a homer in his past three starts. Serving up only one Monday night was a positive.

The slam by Ibanez was the sixth of the season for the Yankees, who have struggled otherwise with the bases loaded. Swisher struck out twice with the bags full. The Yankees are hitting .191 in bases-loaded situations.

Just before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that disabled left fielder Brett Gardner had to be shut down again because of pain in his left arm. Although they have certainly missed the element of speed that Gardner gives them, the Yankees have overcome his loss largely due to the hitting of Ibanez, who has 12 home runs and 40 RBI. He had been signed to be in a platoon with Andruw Jones at designated hitter but with Gardner lost since mid-April has played a lot of left field.

“Playing more often has probably helped him be more productive,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has had some huge hits for us.”

Girardi explained that Gardner’s injury has allowed him to DH Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter more often to keep them fresh and has provided additional playing time for Eric Chavez. A-Rod was the DH Monday night because a stiff neck made it difficult for him to throw. Ibanez gets a caddy in DeWayne Wise in the late innings if the Yankees are ahead. That was the case Monday night, thanks to Ibanez himself.

Mo will go for save No. 602 in final homestand

The Yankees wheezed their way to the end of a 4-city, 11-day, 10-game trip through Baltimore, Anaheim, Seattle and Toronto and were lifeless in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Yanks were 4-6 on the arduous trip with four walk-off losses but had a couple of highlights with Mariano Rivera earning career saves Nos. 600 and 601 to tie Trevor Hoffman’s major-league record.

Mo can try to make the record his own at Yankee Stadium where the Yankees will play eight games over the next seven days on the last regular-season homestand of the season. To say it will be good to get home is a major understatement.

With the Rays continuing to encroach on the Red Sox’ lead in the wild-card race and pushing Boston 4 ½ games behind the Yankees in the American League East, manager Joe Girardi had the opportunity to rest some players Sunday, which he did by giving three regulars the day off. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira weren’t even used in pinch-hit situations as the Yankees went down meekly to Brandon Morrow, who pitched eighth brilliant innings, and Frank Francisco, who worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Against Morrow, the Yankees scratched out only four hits – three of them in the infield – and a walk while striking out eight times. Eduardo Nunez, who played second base as Robinson Cano was the designated hitter, had three hits, including a double off Francisco in the ninth, but was thrown out on the bases trying to stretch his second hit into a double. Nunez was the only one of the Yankees to get to second base, which he did twice.

Freddy Garcia had his third straight poor outing and was undone by two home runs from Adam Lind, who had a monster series (6-for-12, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 RBI, 3 runs). Garcia did not get through the fifth inning. He has allowed 15 earned runs and 21 hits, including six homers, in 12 1/3 innings (10.95 ERA) over his past three starts in which his season ERA has swollen from 3.09 to 3.77.

Garcia’s early exit allowed Girardi the chances to see some relievers who are auditioning for postseason roster spots. The most impressive was lefthander Raul Valdes, who began the year with the Cardinals and was claimed off waivers by the Yankees Aug. 16 and pitched at Double A Trenton. He entered the game in the sixth with one out, the bases full and Lind at bat. Valdes got him looking at a third strike and retired Edwin Encarnacion on a ground ball to end the threat. It was one bright spot in a gloomy day for the Yankees.

Many collaborators in Hughes’ first victory

It was not surprising that Derek Jeter did not play Sunday. With all eight games on the Yankees’ current trip to be played on artificial turf, manager Joe Girardi was wise to keep the Captain off the carpet at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The Yanks move on to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., for a four-game set against the Rays starting Monday night, so expect Jeter to get a night off in that series as well.

DJ’s replacements did fine in his absence as the Yankees gained a split of the series against the Blue Jays with a 7-2 victory that got Phil Hughes his first winning decision of the season. Splits of four-game series always look positive after a team has lost the first two games, which is what happened to the Yankees.

Eduardo Nunez played errorless ball at shortstop and contributed a keep-the-line-moving single in the Yankees’ four-run fourth inning off Carlos Villanueva that sort of broke the game open. Nunez has played third base while Alex Rodriguez (right knee arthroscopic surgery) is on the disabled list. Ramiro Pena played third Sunday and drove in a run with a fly ball in the fourth.

The big hit of that inning was a two-run double by Curtis Granderson, who added a third RBI in the ninth to raise his season total to 68 taking over the club lead from Mark Teixeira, who has 66.

In Jeter’s leadoff spot was Brett Gardner, who finished off a terrific series by reaching base four times with three singles and a walk, stealing two bases and scoring three runs. Gardner has 10-for-16 (.625) on the trip with three doubles, three stolen bases and five runs. He has raised his season batting average from .265 to .286.

Among the more satisfying aspects of the Yankees’ victories Saturday and Sunday was that they did not rely on the long ball as none of their 21 hits in the two games was a home run.

Hughes resembled more the pitcher that won 18 games last year than the one who struggled in April and landed on the DL due to a dead arm. “A big step forward” was how Girardi described the outing by Hughes, who gave up two runs, four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings. The righthander had zip on his fastball and break on his curve. His next start will be on regular rest, which will be yet another test.

One of the weirdest defensive alignments occurred in the ninth inning against Teixeira, who sees the shift used against him many times when batting left-handed. Blue Jays manager John Farrell deployed a quirk to the maneuver by having third baseman Edwin Encarnacion hold the runner, Granderson, on at first base while first baseman Adam Lind played back. It had no effect on the game as Tex flied out to left field.

Yanks can’t recover from horrid 1st inning

The Yankees got off to a pretty rocky start post-All-Star break Thursday night at Toronto. Talk about rocky starts, how about Bartolo Colon? The feel-good story for the Yankees in the first half, Colon failed to survive the first inning as the Blue Jays struck for eight runs. The only Toronto player who did not score that inning was Adam Lind, and he joined the pack when he scored in the second to make the score 9-0.

Colon’s lack of mobility on the mound was a factor in the inning. He did cover first base to get an out on Lind, but two dribblers to the left side later in the inning became RBI singles for Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar. When Eric Thames doubled beyond the reach of Curtis Granderson in center field, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had seen enough and yanked Colon from the game.

Despite the onslaught of runs, Colon’s ERA didn’t take that much of a hit. It rose from 3.20 to 3.47. That was because only three of the eight runs off him were earned. A damaging error by Eduardo Nunez prolonged the inning.

The defensive problems that Nunez experienced at shortstop followed him to third base where he is spelling Alex Rodriguez, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. With three runs in and runners on first and second with two out, Nunez failed to glove a bouncing ball near the bag by J.P. Arencibia. The error loaded the bases, and the next three batters combined to knock in four runs. The fifth unearned run scored on a balk by Luis Ayala in a very ugly inning.

All those unearned runs came back to haunt the Yankees when they made a game of it later on with huge contributions from Andruw Jones. He hit a home run to start a four-run third inning that also featured a two-run triple by Granderson, who then scored on an infield out. Jones got his second homer of the game with two on in the sixth that made the score 9-7. Jays starter Jo Jo Reyes barely pitched long enough (5 1/3 innings) to qualify for a winning decision and seemed to be doing everything in his power not to get one.

Jones started as the designated hitter against the left-handed Reyes, but with righthander Shawn Camp in the game in the eighth, Girardi sent Jorge Posada up as a pinch hitter (he grounded out). In doing so, history was made. It marked the 1,661st time that Posada and Derek Jeter were in the same game, breaking the franchise record for teammates previously held by Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri.

Despite losing slugger Jose Bautista in the fourth inning due to a twisted right ankle while sliding into third base, the Blue Jays kept putting runs on the board and finished with a 16-7 victory on 20 hits. The loss ended a string of victories by the Yankees in the first game back from the All-Star break dating to 2002. The nine-year streak tied a record the Yankees set from 1940-49 (there was no All-Star Game in 1945) and matched by the Montreal Expos from 1984-92.

Thursday night began a 22-game stretch in which the Yankees were scheduled to play 18 times against clubs with records at or below .500. Toronto moved to one game below .500.

More ‘small ball’ at Stadium

The sacrifice as an offensive weapon has made a big comeback this week at Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, it was Curtis Granderson, the 16-home run hitter, asked to lay down a bunt to move runners to second and third. It worked, too, as the Yankees broke open the game with an eight-run seventh inning to beat the Mets, 9-3.

Monday night, Blue Jays manager John Farrell followed Joe Girardi’s plan and had his cleanup hitter give himself up in the sixth inning with the score 1-1 to push up runners and fuel a rally that resulted in a five-spot as Toronto took a 6-1 lead against Bartolo Colon, who had been pretty strong up to that point, on the way to a 7-3 victory.

The only blemish in Colon’s first five innings was Jose Bautista’s 19th home run with two out in the first. Next time up, Bautista walked in the third. Colon had learned his lesson. Colon also put Bautista on with a walk in the sixth. This one was intentional, which made sense considering that first base was open after a leadoff double by Corey Patterson.

Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar, who granted is not your normal cleanup hitter, then bunted the runners to second and third. Farrell has had to play around with his lineup since Adam Lind went on the disabled list last week with a lower back injury. Escobar has never hit more than 14 home runs in a season. Still, it is not every day you see a guy batting cleanup asked to sacrifice.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, it worked this time, too. Aaron Hill singled in a run. Colon then shot himself in the foot with a four-pitch walk to Eric Thames to force in a run. J.C. Arencibia, who had been called out on strike his previous two times up, jumped on a first-pitch fastball and doubled to center, clearing the bases.

That one bad inning kept Colon winless in five starts since April 27. The Yankees managed only one run and two hits off Carlos Villanueva, whose previous 13 appearances this year had been in relief and who was making his first start since Oct. 3, 2009 for the Brewers against the Cardinals. Farrell hoped to get five innings out of the righthander, which he did.

Granderson and Robinson Cano collaborated on all three Yankees’ runs. Granderson had three walks and was driven home each time by Cano on a sacrifice fly, a fielder’s choice and a single. The Yankees had another rough game in the clutch (2-for-15 with runners in scoring position).

Positive signs included two hits apiece for Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner that raised their batting averages to .289 and .274, respectively. Gardner also had two stolen bases. Hector Noesi took over for Colon and allowed one run in three innings in another effective performance.

The American League East tightened up even more. Only 1 ½ games separate the top four clubs – the Yankees, Red Sox, Ray and Blue Jays. Even the last-place Orioles are just 3 ½ game out of first. This is looking like quite a dogfight.

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