Chacon kept up his mastery of Toronto with eight dominant innings, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back homers leading off the first, and the Yankees opened their final home series of the season by beating the Blue Jays 5-0 Friday night.
Hideki Matsui and Tino Martinez also drove in runs in a four-run first, sending the first-place Yankees to their fifth straight win and 11th in 12 games. New York players went to bed in first place for the third straight night, remaining one game ahead of Boston as the Yankees chase their eighth straight division title.
“I think everybody understands that we have to win every day,” Chacon said. “The more pressure we can put on them, obviously the less pressure there is on us.”
New York certainly wouldn’t be on top without the contributions of Chacon (6-3) and Aaron Small (9-0), who came to the Yankees around midseason when the team was languishing and searching to replace injured starting pitchers.
“It hurts to think about where we would be without these guys,” Alex Rodriguez said. “They’ve been a godsend.”
Chacon improved to 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season. After pitching eight innings of four-hit ball in Toronto last Saturday, he allowed three hits in eight innings Friday, running his scoreless innings streak against the Blue Jays to 20.
“He’s had our number all year,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, ejected for the eighth time this season after complaining about a checked swing call in the sixth inning. “Three times we haven’t been able to do anything with him.”
Ted Lilly (9-11) handed New York its most recent loss Sunday in Toronto, but the former Yankee was gone after 11 batters Friday. He allowed four runs and five hits in the shortest start of his career.
Jeter drove a 3-1 pitch over the right-field fence for his 17th homer. Cano also went the other way, lining an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left for his 13th and giving New York a 2-0 lead after eight pitches.
Rodriguez walked and scored on Matsui’s one-out double. An RBI single by Martinez, starting while Jason Giambi got another day off to rest his back, gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
“I would imagine their legs were getting stiff,” Lilly said of his fielders. “It seemed like that one inning took an hour. There wasn’t one time when I needed to make a key pitch that I did.”
Lilly left after walking Jeter and giving up a single to Cano to open the second. Shaun Marcum relieved and walked Rodriguez before escaping the jam. Gary Sheffield bounced to third baseman Corey Koskie, who stepped on the bag and threw home, but the Blue Jays botched the rundown, allowing Jeter to get back to third. Marcum then got Matsui to ground into a double play.
Chacon gave up consecutive hits to open the second, but got the next three batters—two on liners to Rodriguez at third. Frank Catalanotto singled with two outs in the third for the last hit off Chacon, but Matsui saved a run by running down Vernon Wells’ long fly to left.
Chacon cruised from there in winning for the sixth time in eight starts.
“When Brian Cashman told me he was talking about Shawn Chacon from Colorado, I really couldn’t have given him an opinion,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “As soon as he came on board, after one or two starts you sort of got comfortable watching him pitch.”
The Yankees added a final run in the seventh when Rodriguez singled and scored after reliever Vinnie Chulk threw a potential inning-ending double play ball into center field.
1B Giambi was out of the lineup for the second straight day after leaving Wednesday’s game when his back tightened up. He said he could have played, but Torre rested him again with the teams playing a day game Saturday. “It’s relaxed a lot more,” Giambi said. “It’s a lot better, definitely.” … Jeter had been 1-for-16 against LHP Lilly before hitting his 16th career leadoff homer. … Lilly equaled the shortest start by a Toronto pitcher this season. RHP Chad Gaudin also left after facing two batters in the second against Oakland on June 5. … RF Bubba Crosby made a diving catch of Wells’ liner to open the ninth after Scott Proctor replaced Chacon. … New York has pitched an AL-high 14 shutouts. … The Yankees are likely to break 4 million in home attendance for the first time Saturday.