Yankees 8, Blue Jays 4
NEW YORK (AP)—Bernie Williams got an afternoon full of ovations, a reward for 15 years of thrills he’s given fans at Yankee Stadium.
Cano hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning, Gary Sheffield added a three-run shot in the eighth and Wang got another big victory, leading the Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 Sunday in New York’s final scheduled home game of the regular season.
“This was a game that we had to win,” Williams said after perhaps his last game with New York in Yankee Stadium.
On the 37th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s Yankee Stadium finale, Cano and Wang did their best to get Williams a few more games in pinstripes and kept New York tied with Boston atop the AL East at 91-64 with a week to go.
Then they found some flamboyant attire at their lockers for the start of the final trip, a rookie hazing ritual.
As Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” played over the sound system in the clubhouse, Cano and Wang put on navy cheerleader outfits, with Yankees written on the fronts and “Robbie” and “Wanger” on the backs. They giggled as they wore metallic headbands, carried silver pompoms and posed for photos in manager Joe Torre’s office. Then they went upstairs to sign autographs for fans before boarding buses.
Williams was far more dignified, sartorially splendid in a gray suit, blue dress shirt and multicolored tie.
“I can see they love Bernie here,” Cano said.
A fan favorite since he came up to the Yankees in 1991, Williams repeatedly was applauded on the overcast afternoon by the sellout crowd of 55,136, which raised New York’s home total to an AL record 4,090,696. The 37-year-old center fielder, whose production has declined the past three years, can become a free agent after the season.
On the facing of the second deck was a large sign: “BOSS: BRING BERNIE BACK.” Fans in the right-field bleachers gave him a standing ovation as the game began, starting their roll call with a repeated chant of “Bernie! Bernie!” until he raised his right hand in acknowledgment.
“We’re hoping there’s more Bernie Williams at Yankee Stadium because we’re hoping we’re still playing in 10 days or so,” Torre said.
Williams went 1-for-4 with an infield single. When the Yankees began the bottom of the eighth, fans chanted his name, reminiscent of their tribute to Paul O’Neill during Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. Sitting in the dugout, Williams wasn’t sure what to do and turned to Torre for advice before walking up the steps for a curtain call.
“I was trying to make sure I was within protocol within the team, and trying not to disturb anybody,” Williams said. “They were not going to stop, so I sort of looked at Joe and said, `Can I do this?’ and he said, `Yes.’ It was a great moment, and I appreciate it a lot.”
New York, which won for the 12th time in 14 games, headed to Baltimore for a four-game series starting Monday night a half-game behind Cleveland in the wild-card race. After playing at Camden Yards, the Yankees close the season with three games at Fenway Park.
“My future is going to be determined in a great way on how we finish this year,” Williams said. “So I’ve got to take care of the present now, and hopefully the future will take care of itself.”
New York trailed 3-1 against Josh Towers (12-12) before getting four straight singles in the sixth. The Yankees managed only one run, on Derek Jeter’s RBI single, because Cano was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Williams’ infield hit, not realizing the ball had been knocked down by second baseman Aaron Hill.
Jorge Posada singled on the first pitch of the seventh and two pitches later Cano reached outside for a curveball and hooked it over the right-field wall for his 14th homer.
“He could be the Rookie of the Year,” Towers said. “He should be here a long time.”
Cano was not trying to atone for his miscue.
“It came from my dad,” he said of his attitude. “He used to say, `If you make a mistake, don’t let it happen again, and keep your head up.”’
Wang (8-4) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings to help New York rebound from Saturday’s 7-4 loss, which wiped out the one-game lead the Yankees had held for three nights. He is on track to start Friday’s series opener at Boston.
“He’s good,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s got a good arm, and he’s got that funky fastball.”
After Russ Adams doubled off Tom Gordon in the eighth, Mariano Rivera came on with two outs, walked Vernon Wells, then struck out Corey Koskie. Sheffield homered off Vinnie Chulk in the bottom half, Bubba Crosby added an RBI single, and Rivera finished for his 42nd save in 46 chances, allowing an RBI single to Hill.
“We need to go out and win all the games, as Boston does,” Torre said. “A week from today, the smoke clears. Hopefully, we’re standing tall.”
A video of Torre was played on the right-field scoreboard in the middle of the sixth, thanking fans. “We deserve your booing sometimes, but we really feel your heartbeat,” he said. … Sheffield, who hit a sacrifice fly in the first, was back in right field for the first time since Sept. 7, when he injured his left thigh. .. Wang retired 10 straight before Koskie’s leadoff double in the fifth, Toronto’s first hit and ball out of the infield. Eric Hinske’s out-one homer went into the right-field bleachers, and Hill added an RBI double.