Yankees scrap their way to victory over Jays
The New York Yankees are built around their big boppers, and they relied on the long ball to power their way through much of April.
They proved Saturday they can win by keeping the ball inside the park, too.
Eric Chavez broke up a potential double play that helped lead to three runs. Derek Jeter hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett picked a runner off first base, and catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., threw out another trying to steal third.
The Yankees did just about everything right in a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Guys played hard. We didn't take anything for granted," manager Joe Girardi said. "We did a lot of nice little things, and that's why we won."
Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Martin also drove in runs for the Yankees, giving Burnett (4-1) just enough support. He scrapped his way through six innings despite giving up nine hits, wiggling out of jams in just about every one of them.
The right-hander struck out Edwin Encarnacion and Mike McCoy to strand runners in scoring position in the first inning, picked off Rajai Davis on first base in the fifth, and watched as Martin threw out Juan Rivera trying to steal third base to end the sixth inning.
The bullpen went the rest of the way, with Mariano Rivera picking up his ninth save.
"I didn't feel real good all day," Burnett said. "My fastball was kind of flat. I guess I kept them down as best I could."
It was good enough.
McCoy hit his first career homer for the Blue Jays, then made an incredible fielding play in the seventh inning when he did a Fred Astaire impersonation -- dancing and twirling into shallow right field -- to make an over-the-shoulder basket grab of a pop by Nick Swisher.
McCoy then spun around and threw to first base to double off Robinson Cano.
"It was an outstanding play," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "With the homer, he got a fastball up and turned on it. It was a real momentum shift late in the game."
It just didn't shift the momentum all the way.
David Cooper recorded his first career RBI, and Adam Lind and Yunel Escobar also drove in runs for the Jays, who just couldn't break through against the Yankees bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain pitched a perfect seventh inning, and Rafael Soriano worked around a two-out single by Lind in the eighth, and Rivera stranded a runner on second base to end it.
Kyle Drabek (2-1) wound up making a forgettable debut in the Bronx, where his father, Doug, played his rookie season for the Yankees in 1986. The 23-year-old allowed five runs and seven hits with four walks in 2 1-3 innings, losing for the first time in six starts this season.
"He just wasn't sharp," Farrell said. "He struggled with his command out there. The difference was really the walks. I'm sure he had some frustrations out there with his command."
The Blue Jays bullpen kept them in the game, allowing only two baserunners — both erased on double plays — and no hits over 5 2-3 innings.
"They really gave us a chance to get back in the game," Farrell said.
Perhaps the biggest reason Toronto was in a hole to begin with was Chavez's baserunning.
Swisher led off the second inning with a bloop single to left, and Chavez drew a walk before Jorge Posada grounded to second base. Chavez made a nice slide that prevented the Blue Jays from turning a double play, and Martin followed moments later with an RBI single that made it 1-1.
Gardner then walked to load the bases for Jeter, whose sacrifice fly gave New York the lead on what should have been the final out of the inning. Granderson then lined a base hit on an 0-2 pitch from Drabek, scoring Martin and giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
Lind got Toronto within a run with his sacrifice fly in the third, but Chavez — making a spot start for Alex Rodriguez at third base — drove in a run and Gardner drove in another.
The Blue Jays couldn't climb all the way back from the 5-2 deficit.
"I don't care whether we get them by homers, bunts, walks," Swisher said with a broad smile, alluding to the scrappy run support. "So long as we get them."