By RONALD BLUM
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Streaking Ichiro Suzuki hit a go-ahead, two-run
double in a seven-run fourth inning capped by Nick Swisher’s grand
slam, and the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-7
Thursday night to open a one-game AL East lead over idle Baltimore.
After struggling for much of the summer, the Yankees completed a
three-game sweep of the Blue Jays and have won five in a row, their
longest winning string since June 23-27.
Backed by an 8-2 lead, Phil Hughes (16-12) lasted just five
Toronto trailed 10-4 before a three-run eighth. David Robertson
got three outs for his second save this season and first since May
New York was down 2-0 before Suzuki’s solo home run in the
third. He hooked a based-loaded double to right in the fourth on an
0-2 pitch, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead and extending Suzuki’s
spurt to nine hits in 10 at-bats.
That chased starter Aaron Laffey (3-6), and reliever Brad
Lincoln loaded the bases with a walk to Jayson Nix. Derek Jeter
followed with an RBI for a 14-game hitting streak, and Swisher sent
a 96 mph fastball into the right-field seats for his seventh career
slam and third this season.
Hughes (16-12) won his third straight start, allowing four runs
and four hits with nine strikeouts. Hughes struck out Kelly Johnson
with the bases loaded to end the third, then tied a major league
record in the fourth by striking out four batters: J.P. Arencibia,
Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Brett Lawrie. Hechavarria
reached on Russell Martin’s passed ball.
New York, which led the division by 10 games in late July, has
been in the unusual position of scoreboard watching of late.
“It’s impossible not to see the scoreboard. It’s so big in
front of you,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You look at the
outfielders, where they’re positioned, and you look at the
infielders, where they’re positioned, and there’s the scoreboard.”
Still, he didn’t stay up to watch Baltimore’s extra-inning wins
at Seattle the previous two nights.
“It’s too late for me,” he said. “I also have little kids
that like to get _ be up early. So I went to bed, checked the
scores when I got up this morning.”
Toronto dropped to 66-82, ensuring the Blue Jays’ second
straight losing season and third in four years. Laffey gave up five
runs _ four earned _ five walks and two hits in three-plus innings,
dropping to 0-4 in his last six starts. There were 13 walks, eight
by Toronto pitchers, and Blue Jays batters struck out 15 times.
New York’s big fourth inning started when Martin walked and took
second on a delayed steal, Curtis Granderson reached when Johnson
fumbled his grounder to second and Casey McGehee loaded the bases
for Suzuki with a walk.
Toronto built its lead when Johnson hit an RBI double in the
second and Hughes hit Moises Sierra in the left ribs with a
bases-loaded pitch in the third.
After Sierra’s fifth-inning homer closed the Blue Jays to 8-4,
the Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth against Brett Cecil.
Granderson popped a 200-foot, wind-blown double that Sierra chased
from right field but allowed to fall on the grass behind second
base. Nix doubled in a run and scored on Jeter’s single.
Johnson homered in the eighth off Cory Wade, Lawrie had a
run-scoring single against Joba Chamberlain and Mike McCoy hit into
an RBI forceout.
NOTES: New York (86-63) matched its season high of 23 games over
.500. … Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was on hand for a
pregame tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who died Aug. 6, accompanying
the composer’s wife, Terre. Hamlisch was a friend of Torre’s and an
occasional guest in his Yankee Stadium office. … The only other
Yankees pitcher with four Ks in an inning was A.J. Burnett against
Colorado on June 24 last year. … The Yankees have 10 slams this
season, tying the team record set in 1987 and matched in 2010 and
2011. Swisher had slams April 21 at Boston and Aug. 13 vs. Texas.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)