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Hafner's triple, homer key Yankees' 5-4 win over Blue Jays

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner knows speed is not one of his strengths so he is aware that it takes a special set of circumstances to get a triple.

Something such as a ball trickling off the glove of Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Rajai Davis.

"I don't think 'triple' very often," Hafner said of his go-ahead three-bagger in the seventh inning of the New York Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday. "I don't remember what happened, but it got away from him pretty good. Usually something like that has to happen for me to get to third base."

Hafner drove in four runs to lead the Yankees, including a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

The triple was the 13th of Hafner's career. He hit a 0-1 curveball off left-hander Brett Cecil to center field that trickled by Davis near the fence. That came three innings after he forged a 3-3 tie with a three-run home run off a 2-1 fastball from left-handed starter J.A. Happ.

Hafner made his first start of the season against a left-handed pitcher as Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to start him over Ben Francisco. Girardi made that decision in spite of Hafner's 1-for-7 performance off left-handers this season and 37-for-171 (.216) showing off them since hitting .273 in 2010.

"I've had some really good years swinging the bat against them," Hafner said. "I haven't swung as well against them the past couple of years. I probably feel like my swing is a little bit better suited to handle them this year. But when I was playing every day several years back, whenever you get into a big spot late in the game, they're bringing in the lefties.

"So if you don't learn how to hit them you're not going to be that good of an RBI guy. So it's something that I worked hard on and took a lot of pride in."

It was the fourth time Hafner has tripled and hit a home run in the same game. He did it May 7 against the Chicago White Sox but before that had not done it since 2003.

Even with Hafner's solid performance against southpaws, it's not something Girardi will do all the time, though it's possible he could do it more frequently. Keeping him out of the lineup against left-handed starters is also designed as time off for someone who has had several trips to the disabled list in recent seasons.

"I just thought today was a good day to do it," Girardi said, "and he made it work."

Hafner's triple scored former Blue Jay Vernon Wells, who had another productive day. He hit the game-tying single off Esmil Rogers that drove in Robinson Cano, and then he stole second one pitch before Hafner tripled.

"He's been around the block a few times," Wells said of Hafner. "He's faced some of the best. He's getting himself in hitter's counts and has been doing damage. It's fun to watch."

C.C. Sabathia (4-2) won for the fourth time in six starts despite allowing four runs and a season-high nine hits in eight innings. He gave up a solo home run to Jose Bautista in the fourth and a solo shot to Brett Lawrie in the sixth.

After Lawrie's second home run of the series, Sabathia retired his final nine hitters on 31 pitches. With Mariano Rivera getting the day off after working out of a bases-loaded jam Friday, Joba Chamberlain gave up two hits in the ninth before notching his fifth career save.

Toronto had runners on first and second with one out after Emilio Bonifacio reached on an infield single. Chamberlain finished up New York's 13th win in 18 games by retiring Davis on a shallow fly ball and getting the final out when Melky Cabrera hit a soft ground ball to third baseman Jayson Nix, who stepped on the bag for the force-out.

J.A. Happ allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. He put just three base runners on in the opening three innings but issued walks to Wells and Kevin Youkilis ahead of Hafner's sixth home run.

"I thought I could I do better than that," Happ said. "Every little bit helps. We're struggling in these close games so it would have been nice."

Toronto lost its third straight and fell to 9-16. The Blue Jays are 5-10 since losing shortstop Jose Reyes to a severe left ankle sprain, and they have lost eight of 12 games decided by two runs or fewer.

"You know what? We aren't good enough," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's that simple. There comes a time in every game where you have to make a big pitch and you have to get a big hit and that's eluded us all year long."

NOTES: Toronto RHP Josh Johnson, who was scratched Friday due to a triceps injury, sounded upbeat about his status after an MRI revealed only inflammation. He said he will play catch either Sunday or Monday and that will be followed by a bullpen session. Johnson was unsure whether he would start on his next scheduled turn Thursday against Boston since he has not been informed about anything other than playing catch and throwing a

side session. ... Youkilis said he was fine after batting practice and returned to the lineup after missing six games with a back injury. ... The Yankees placed RHP Ivan Nova (right triceps) and C Francisco Cervelli (fractured right hand) on the 15-day disabled list. They also moved SS Derek Jeter to the 60-day DL eight days after another fracture was discovered in his ankle. ... Filling the roster spots of Nova and Cervelli were C Austin

Romine and LHP Vidal Nuno, who had to be added to the 40-man roster. ... RHP David Phelps is expected to take Nova's spot in the rotation.
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