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Ichiro makes most of start in center field as Yankees slug Blue Jays

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- Ichiro Suzuki had a rare start in center field on Friday night and Curtis Granderson had most of the night off.

It worked out just fine for the New York Yankees. Ichiro drove in five runs and the Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 10-4 before 42,610 at Rogers Centre on Friday.

The offensive help assured that right-hander Freddy Garcia's efficient effort of holding the Blue Jays to two runs over six innings on just 78 pitches would not be wasted.

It was the first time Ichiro has played center field since 2008 when he was with the Seattle Mariners who traded him to the Yankees on July 23.

Ichiro, usually a right fielder, has also played left field for the Yankees.

"It had been a while so I was a little nervous but there were no tough balls at me today," Ichiro said. "Everything went well.

"Sometimes I get up to the plate and they say 'Playing left field, Ichiro Suzuki for the Yankees.' It kind of takes me a while to remember 'Oh yeah, I am on the Yankees."

Ichiro was back in right in the eighth inning after Granderson was sent into the game to play center.

"He has a knack for finding ways to get on base," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. "He kind of solidifies the bottom of our lineup."

Meanwhile, Garcia (6-5) held the Blue Jays to five hits and no walks while striking out four.

"He's the same guy every time he goes out there," Martin said. "Today it looked like he had pretty good command of all his stuff."

Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero (8-9) allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks over seven innings. The Blue Jays committed two errors behind him as he lost his eighth consecutive decision even though he has pitched better in recent starts.

Kelly Johnson drove in two runs for the Blue Jays with a homer and a double.

Mark Teixeira hit his 22nd homer of the season on the first pitch of the eighth inning thrown by reliever Steve Delabar and the Yankees scored two more in the inning to go ahead 6-2.

Toronto (53-59) has lost four games in a row and the Yankees (66-46) have won three in a row.

Romero settled down and retired 14 of 16 batters after Cano's RBI single with one out in the third.

"I felt great," Romero said. "Felt like I finished strong. I got back to the delivery I've been looking for. I can't say enough about (pitching coach) Bruce Walton. He's helped me a lot.

"He's been one of the guys who stuck with me through all this. He just kind of said a little thing between innings and it kind of stuck with me and I kind of used it out there. I've gone back to the basics in my last three starts, which is just using my heater and working off of that."

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said, "I thought Ricky got better as the night went along. It seemed the rhythm of his fastball was much better, threw some good curveballs to mix in as well as well as a cutter."

Garcia retired his final eight batters after Johnson's RBI double in the fourth before left-hander Boone Logan replaced him to start the seventh. Logan retired his only two batters and Joba Chamberlain got the final out.

After Teixeira's homer led off the eighth, the Yankees got two-out singles from Jayson Nix, Russell Martin and Ichiro to produce two more runs.

Anthony Gose led off the bottom of the eighth with a single against Chamberlain and then stole second and third after David Robertson took over on the mound for New York. Gose scored when Colby Rasmus bounced into a double play. Rasmus then came out of the game after a recurrence of a groin strain.

The Yankees padded their lead in the ninth against David Carpenter on a single by Derek Jeter, a run-scoring double by Nick Swisher, an intentional walk to Robinson Cano and a single by pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez. Martin was hit by a pitch and Brad Lincoln came in to give up a two-run double by Ichiro.

David Cooper and Yan Gomes singled against Clay Rapada and Jeff Mathis singled against Cody Eppley to produce a run for Toronto in the ninth.

Romero fell behind 3-0 in the count to three of his first five batters in the game.

It caught up to him in the second when he fell behind 3-0 to the first two batters: Cano, who eventually singled; and Andruw Jones, who walked.

It got worse when Nix put down a sacrifice bunt and Mathis, the catcher, tried to make the play at third, but wound up with an error when his throw went to the outfield. Cano scored and Jones took third.

Martin walked to load the bases and the second run scored when Ichiro forced Martin at second.

Johnson got one back for Toronto with his 13th homer in the bottom of the second.

The Yankees scored again in the third. Swisher led off with a single, took second on a groundout and scored on Cano's single.

The Blue Jays scored once on three successive hits in the fourth. Yunel Escobar bunted for a single with one out and took second on Cooper's single. Johnson doubled to cut the Yankees lead to 3-2.

"I thought we had a very good opportunity to not only tie but potentially go up a run in the fourth," Farrell said. "Cut the deficit to one, men at second and third with just the one out. Obviously the two strikeouts loomed large at that point until we got in the late innings and then things get away from us. A couple of balls in the lights led to four runs."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "I like the way we're playing. I like the fight in our guys an I like the way they go about their business. We swung the bats pretty well and took advantage of some walks early. Our guys were patient and that was important."

NOTES: Carpenter was promoted from Class AAA Las Vegas as a roster replacement for 3B Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., (strained right oblique), who went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday. Carpenter, who was obtained in the July 20 trade with Houston, was 0-1 with a 1.93 earned-run average with Las Vegas. After the game, Carpenter was returned to Las Vegas and INF Mike McCoy was recalled... RHP Juan Abreu was claimed off waivers from Houston on Friday and assigned to Las Vegas. RHP Scott Richmond was designated for assignment to make room for Abreu on the 40-man roster. ... Friday was the 59th consecutive day in which the Yankees have been first in the AL East, their longest stretch in first since they led for the final 77 days of the 2009 season. ... RHP Ivan Nova (10-6, 4.81 ERA) will start for New York Saturday against LHP Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.39 ERA).

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