Yankees 7, Blue Jays 4
TORONTO (AP)—Every time he failed in the clutch, Alex Rodriguez got a little bit more frustrated.
In the ninth inning Thursday night against Toronto, he finally came through.
Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking, two-run single to help the New York Yankees rally past the Blue Jays 7-4 and keep Boston from creeping any closer in the AL East.
“It felt like a grand slam,” Rodriguez said. “It was just a sigh of relief.”
After New York came back from a 4-0 deficit to tie it, Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk from Jason Frasor (4-4) in the ninth. Gary Sheffield doubled before Rodriguez lined an 0-2 pitch down the left-field line for a two-run single and a 6-4 lead.
Frustrated by failures with runners on all season, Rodriguez slammed his bat to the turf in satisfaction as he ran to first. He didn’t even make it to second on what should have been a double.
“I was so pumped up about that hit that I screwed up running the bases,” he said.
He entered the at-bat hitting just .197 (23-for-117) with runners in scoring position. He grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth, falling to 0-for-10 with the bases loaded this season.
“These guys have been carrying me for a while, but my time is coming, that’s for sure,” he said.
Hideki Matsui added an RBI single off Frasor to score Rodriguez, who was all smiles afterward while sitting between Jeter and batting coach Don Mattingly in the dugout.
Rodriguez said Sheffield has been urging him to attack the baseball.
“That’s what I did in the last at-bat. That’s just the kind of hitter I am,” Rodriguez said.
Sheffield said it could be a big confidence boost for Rodriguez.
“This was probably the biggest at-bat of the year for him,” Sheffield said. “When he comes around he’s going to carry us all.”
New York manager Joe Torre said Rodriguez has been trying to do too much.
“You could just see in his eyes the happiness for helping this club. He has been feeling like he’s been letting us down,” Torre said.
New York remained 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Red Sox.
The Yankees have won eight of 10 this year against Toronto, which has lost 16 of 22 overall. It was the seventh time this season New York overcame a four-run deficit to win after not doing it at all last year.
“Teams like that, you’ve got to put them away,” Blue Jays interim manager John Gibbons said. “They did what they do best.”
Delgado hit a two-run homer off Jon Lieber in the first, and Hudson added a two-run shot in the third.
Rookie David Bush—making his first career start against New York—pitched four hitless innings before the Yankees scored three runs in the fifth. After shortstop Chris Woodward’s throwing error allowed Jorge Posada to reach, John Olerud singled for New York’s first hit. Miguel Cairo and Kenny Lofton followed with consecutive singles, scoring Posada.
Bernie Williams added a sacrifice fly and Jeter hit an RBI single, cutting Toronto’s lead to 4-3. Bush walked Sheffield to load the bases, but Rodriguez grounded into his inning-ending double play.
Lofton chased Bush with a tying single in the sixth.
Torre said he wasn’t trying to anger owner George Steinbrenner by starting Lofton in RF. Steinbrenner didn’t like it when Torre started Lofton in RF on Aug. 9, the first start of his career at an outfield position other than center. Lofton bobbled a ball for an error in that game. Torre made RF Sheffield the DH to give him a day off from SkyDome’s artificial turf. Lofton had no trouble in the field in this one. … Rodriguez’s last hit with the bases loaded was July 31, 2003, with Texas against Boston. … Toronto CF Vernon Wells missed his third straight game with tightness in his right calf. He missed 24 games earlier this season with an injured right calf.