TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays used the big hitters to tie it with homers — but all it took to win it was a single by one of their little guys.
Jose Bautista homered for the fifth straight game in the sixth inning, following a two-out solo homer by Melky Cabrera.
Edwin Encarnacion led off the seventh with a homer to tie the game 3-3 and, with two out in the seventh, Munenori Kawasaki came through with the two-out single to score pinch-runner Steve Tolleson with what proved to be the winning run.
The 4-3 victory gave the Blue Jays the final two games of the three-game series against the Yankees.
While little ball helped the Blue Jays score the decisive run, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was happy to see the return of the long ball that has been missing for most of August.
“Definitely, they win,” Gibbons said. “It’s guaranteed runs. I think when you get into trouble though when you start swinging for them, you’re trying to hit them. It’s kind of what we do, though you’ve still got to get your other hits. But we’ve been missing that.”
Derek Jeter, who is retiring at the end of the season and was playing his final game at Rogers Centre, hit a soft line drive to second to end the game with pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki at third base. It gave Casey Janssen his 20th save of the season and left-hander J.A. Happ (9-8) the win.
Centre-fielder Brett Gardner homered, tripled and doubled to fall a single short of hitting for the cycle as he helped the Yankees build a 3-0 lead after five innings.
Bautista is one shy of the club record of six consecutive games with a homer set in 2001 by Jose Cruz, Jr.
“That’s so hard to do what he’s doing,” Gibbons said. “He’s in a nice little groove. I think he is waiting his at-bats out for a pitch to hit. He’s using that left-centre field gap pretty good that shows you he’s on the ball, he’s not spinning off it, that’s where he runs into trouble. He’s a good hitter. It’s tough to hit five in a row but he’s a guy that can do that.”
Happ allowed nine hits and three runs in seven innings and Yankees right-hander Brandon McCarthy (8-14) allowed five hits and four runs in six-plus innings. He is 5-4 after joining the Yankees in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 6.
“They grind,” Happ said. “I feel like every team, especially in this division, does that. A day like today, McCarthy was throwing really well and I’m just trying to stay in there and keep us in the ball game. We stayed on him and came back and that was huge.”
Gardner led off the first with his 16th homer of the season. It was the sixth homer of his career leading off a game and five have been this season. Jeter singled but was erased when Martin Prado hit into a double play.
“It was nice to get out of there after the leadoff home run, try to find a groove,” Happ said.
The Yankees increased their lead to 2-0 in the fourth on a single to left by Francisco Cervelli. It scored Prado who led off with a single and took third on a two-out hit by Chase Headley.
The Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the fifth when Gardner tripled to left centre with one out and was awarded home when the relay throw from shortstop Jose Reyes overshot third base. It was the 17th error of the season by Reyes.
Cabrera and Bautista hit back-to-back home runs with two out in the sixth to cut the lead to 3-2.
It was the 16th of the season for Cabrera and the 29th for Bautista.
Encarnacion led off the seventh with his 28th homer of the season. He is still trying to find his hitting form since being out with a quadriceps injury from July 6 to Aug. 15.
“If we’re going to do anything we definitely need him,” Gibbons said. “So hopefully that’s a start of something. I thought, when he first came back, his swings were better and I thought his timing was pretty good for the long layoff. Then he hit a stretch where he was a little bit out of whack and his timing was off. He’ll tell you the key to his success is keeping both hands on the bat and he has been out front, a lot of times releasing that top hand and everything.”
Dioner Navarro walked and Tolleson ran for him. Right-hander Dellin Betances replaced McCarthy. Tolleson stole second and scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Kawasaki.
Left-hander Brett Cecil replaced Happ for the eighth and Janssen came out for the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, who did not start because of a left ankle injury, hit a bloop double to right in the ninth with one out.
“My adrenalin was pumping,” Ellsbury said. “I typically don’t pinch hit… In that situation, you want to get on base and get into scoring position. Once I saw that ball go up in the air I knew it was going to take a high hop. There’s only one thing I could do, go for two and hopefully get into scoring position.”
Ichiro ran for him and took third on Gardner’s groundout to first. That brought up Jeter and he hit a soft liner to second to end the game.
“When it came off the bat I thought for a minute it would be over his head at second,” Gibbons said.
“I could see the little fairytale story being written,” Janssen said. “But got that out of my head and knew I had to attack him.”
NOTES: Announced attendance was 45,678, the 12th sellout of the season at Rogers Centre. …Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow (torn tendon sheath in right index finger) pitched the eighth inning and allowed one hit for triple-A Buffalo on Saturday in the second outing of his rehabilitation assignment… The Blue Jays presented Jeter, who was designated hitter on Sunday, with a trip to Banff before his final game at Rogers Centre… The Blue Jays have Monday off before opening a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Tuesday with RHP R.A. Dickey (10-12, 4.00 ERA) starting against RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 2.98 ERA).