Yankees 8, Blue Jays 2
Williams hit his 10th grand slam Sunday to move into fourth place on the club’s career list and spark an 8-2 win over the last-place Toronto Blue Jays, who fired manager Carlos Tosca after their fifth straight loss.
“We have six or seven weeks left in the season and the team showed signs of not playing hard,” said general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who hired Tosca on June 3, 2002.
The slam put Williams one ahead of Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, trailing only Lou Gehrig (23), Joe DiMaggio (13) and Babe Ruth (12).
A day earlier, Williams reached 1,100 RBIs, passing batting coach Don Mattingly for eighth place in club history. A day before that, Williams’ 391st double moved him past DiMaggio for fourth on the team list.
“It’s a very special feeling,” Williams said. “It feels nice, obviously. A lot of the credit belongs to people who worked with me, believed in me and let me play year-in and year-out. It’s been a great run and hopefully it’s not over yet.”
Williams is hitting .251 this season and the slam was his 13th home run, hardly startling statistics. He has been working with Mattingly on his approach.
“He’s trying to get me to hit the ball out front,” Williams said. “He wants me to see the ball, but not too long that I can’t hit the ball. He’s a positive influence. He’s confident I’m going to hit the ball hard. He says, `Stick with the plan. You’re a good hitter and you’ll get through this.’ He’s very encouraging.”
So was Jon Lieber (8-7), who extended the Yankees’ streak of eight-inning efforts by starting pitchers to four, limiting the Blue Jays to four hits. He struck out five and walked one.
“I finally felt comfortable,” said Lieber, who had not won since July 10. “It’s probably arm slot. I made an adjustment.”
Manager Joe Torre lauded Lieber’s effort.
“He looked a lot smoother,” Torre said. “They hit a lot of topped balls early and that’s a good sign.”
“It’s been contagious,” Torre said. “It’s like being in a slump. Now it’s the other way and I like it this way.”
The slam into the right-field bleachers gave Lieber a quick 4-0 lead. It was Williams’ first grand slam since July 25, 2000, when he connected against Baltimore.
“We’ve been accustomed to playing our best ball at the end of the year and this year we’re not going to get an opportunity to do that,” Tosca said. “One thing I’ve always prided myself on is that the players have given a good effort.”
In the third, the Yankees extended the lead to 6-1. Matsui singled with two outs and Williams walked. Both runners scored on a double by John Olerud. That gave Olerud six hits and six RBIs in four games since signing with the Yankees after he was released by Seattle.
“It was a great pitch,” Batista said. “It was right where I wanted it, a sinker down and in.”
All the Yankees’ runs scored with two outs.
Toronto scored again in the sixth when Frank Catalanotto opened with a single and Delgado hit his second double. A walk to Gregg Zaun loaded the bases, but second baseman Enrique Wilson made a sparkling stop of Hinske’s RBI groundout.
Paul Quantrill worked a perfect ninth to finish it.
Williams’ slam was the sixth for the Yankees this season. They lead the major leagues with 170 home runs. … Toronto’s Gabe Gross reached base on catcher’s interference in the fifth, and C John Flaherty was charged with an error. … Yankees C Jorge Posada (bruised right thumb) sat out his third straight game. “We’re playing it safe one more day,” Torre said. “If it was the postseason, he’d be playing.”