NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner made his first start of the season against a left-handed pitcher and drove in four runs as the New York Yankees rallied in the late innings for a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Before Saturday, Hafner had just one hit in seven at-bats against left-handed pitching this season and 37 in 171 at-bats against them since hitting .273 in 2010. In spite of those numbers, Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to start him instead of Ben Francisco, his usual designated hitter against southpaws.
The move paid off for the Yankees as Hafner hit a three-run home run with nobody out in the fourth that forged a 4-4 tie. It paid off again in the seventh when Hafner hit a triple off Brett Cecil that just went out of the reach of center fielder Rajai Davis, scoring former Blue Jay Vernon Wells.
Wells had another productive day against his former team by scoring twice on Hafner's hits. He had the game-tying single off Esmil Rogers (1-2) that drove in Robinson Cano, and then stole second one pitch before Hafner's triple.
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 the final nine hitters he faced 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.
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.
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 that he will play catch either Sunday or Monday and that will be followed by a bullpen session. Johnson was unsure if 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 that 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.