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Yankees complete four-game sweep of struggling Blue Jays

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Lyle Overbay does not have the exact approach to hitting a knuckleball pitcher, but one thing he learned from former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Matt Stairs was to take aggressive swings and attempt to pull home runs.

When R.A. Dickey's knuckleball tailed over the outer edge of the plate, the left-handed hitting first baseman took an educated guess with that type of swing.

Overbay guessed right and wound up hitting a go-ahead two-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning, helping the New York Yankees complete a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays with a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon.

"It's hard because the knuckleball does different things, so it's kind of an educated guess," Overbay said. "Usually for lefties, it's going away from you so it's something that started up a little bit and started headed that way."

Overbay went 10-for-29 (.349) with two home runs and eight RBI against Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. He was 1-for-7 against him in 2007 with Toronto but in his last three seasons with the Blue Jays, Overbay was 7-for-17 with five RBI off Wakefield.

"His approach was to try to and pull homers. Ever since I did that, I started hitting them a lot better. You start taking aggressive swings I think is the biggest thing because you're trying to (get) a feel for him and he ends up beating you. So it's a matter of taking a big strong aggressive hack."

That approach did not seem to work in previous encounters with Dickey. Before Sunday, Overbay had been 1-for-14 and a month ago it did not seem likely he would be facing Dickey anytime soon after getting released by the Red Sox in spring training. But with the Yankees needing a first baseman in the wake of Mark Teixeira's forearm injury, Overbay was a free agent in his estimation for about 90 minutes.

"I think a lot of things have to work in my favor, which I think they did," Overbay said. "I think that's the way it happened but I was up in the air. You never know."

Instead, he became the latest veteran coming off some down years to produce for the Yankees, who have won 14 of 19 since a 1-4 start. On Saturday, Travis Hafner drove in four runs during his first start of the season against a left-hander and he scored on Overbay's third home run.

"He's been important to us," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Offensively he's really contributed but defensively he's really solidified first base. He really knows how to play the position. He's done a really nice job for us and we got a little bit lucky when he became available at the end of spring training."

Before the seventh inning, the Yankees seemed unable to solve Dickey's knuckleball.

Dickey retired 13 of the next 14 hitters after Overbay's two-out single in the second inning while getting the Yankees to hit the ball on the ground frequently.

"I threw him a couple of very mediocre knuckleballs and he got a couple of base hits, one being a home run," Dickey said. "When you're playing tight games against the New York Yankees it's usually the guy that makes the most mistakes that's going to lose the game. I'm it today and the four hits that I gave up, two were homers."

The home run gave New York its first four-game sweep at home over the Blue Jays since September 1995 and its 16th win in its last 18 home games against Toronto.

Boone Logan (1-1) picked up the win by striking out Jose Bautista for the final out of the seventh with a runner at first. David Robertson retired the side in the eighth and Mariano Rivera did the same in the ninth for his ninth save in as many chances.

Phil Hughes remained winless and was in line for the loss before Overbay's home run. He allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out a season-high nine during a 111-pitch outing.

The loss was the second straight for Toronto decided in the seventh inning or later and it was their 11th in 17 games decided by two runs or fewer.

Toronto led at some point in all four games and suffered its latest loss by striking out 13 times, including twice in the sixth when Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera struck out after Bautista led off with a double. Bautista eventually scored on Maicer Izturis' double but likely would have scored had Encarnacion and Cabrera gotten a hit.

"We're right in every game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We just can't get that big win."

NOTES: Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke for nearly 20 minutes before the game to address the state of his team. Among the key things he said was that despite the abundance of infield hits allowed in the two weeks since shortstop Jose Reyes injured his left ankle, the team is sticking with Izturis and Muenori Kawaski up the middle. "It's been an issue early on," Anthopoulos said. "But I do think we're starting to see signs of playing better defensively." He also said Reyes will soon be out of the walking boot and the team hopes he can start walking in about 10 days. ... Left-hander Ricky Romero made his first start for Class A Dunedin of the Florida State League on Saturday and allowed one run and four hits in six innings. The most encouraging signs for the Blue Jays were a low pitch count and the fact that he recorded 12 outs on the ground. The decision to move Romero up a level will be made by minor league pitching coordinator Dane Johnson. ... The Yankees gave Kevin Youkilis the day off, and Sunday marked the seventh time in eight games that he did not play. Youkilis missed six games with a lower back issue that may have reoccurred Sunday. "It's a little concerning for me," Girardi said. "I've said all along that backs can be tricky. I'm a guy that's had to deal with it for a number of years, and sometimes you have no idea why it acts up. Sometimes it's maybe one play or something you do, but sometimes it can be as simple as bending over to pick up a ball or something, and all of a sudden you lock up. It's concerning." After the game, the Yankees said that Youkilis would undergo an MRI on Monday.

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