TORONTO (AP) _ After holding onto the AL East lead for more than
31/2 months, the Yankees appeared set to fall out of first place on
Sunday. Then they rallied from a four-run deficit, headed home
still tied with Baltimore for the AL East lead and later clinched
their 17th postseason berth in 18 years.

“Tonight was a season-defining game for us,” New York’s Nick
Swisher said after a 9-6 win at the Toronto Blue Jays. “We could
have gone down big like that and just packed it in, but that’s not
this team’s M.O. That’s not how we approach it.”

Eduardo Nunez drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning
sacrifice fly. Eric Chavez homered for the Yankees (92-67), who
completed a 4-3 trip and headed home for a season-closing series
against Boston. The Orioles (92-67) beat the Red Sox 6-3 and
traveled to Florida for their final series, at Tampa Bay.

“Every game feels like it’s a playoff game right now,” Russell
Martin said. “That’s our attitude.”

New York has overcome four-run deficits to win twice in a
nine-game span for the second time this season, according to STATS
LLC. The Yankees and Orioles both clinched no worse than a
wild-card berth when Texas (93-66) beat the Angels 8-7 in the
second game of a day-night doubleheader, dropping Los Angeles to
With both the division title and the AL’s best record still up
for grabs, the Yankees aren’t relishing the prospect of playing the
last-place Red Sox, who have lost 90 games for the first time since

“They would like nothing better than to spoil our season,”
Martin said. “Us knowing that, I don’t think anybody is going to
take them lightly.”

A wild-card berth and the one-game playoff that comes with it
isn’t to New York’s liking. The Yankees opened a 10-game AL East
lead in mid-July and have never failed to finish first in a season
in which they led by at least 61/2 games.

“This team wants to win a division,” Swisher said. “That’s
it. I don’t ever think in the history of Yankee baseball we’ve shot
for the wild card. That’s not how we get down over here. This city,
this team expects to win and that’s what I expect us to go out and

Toronto took a 5-1 lead in the fifth against Phil Hughes, but
the Yankees closed in the sixth on a run-scoring pitch by Henderson
Alvarez and tied it an inning later on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice
fly, Robinson Cano’s RBI double against Steve Delabar and Aaron
Loup’s run-scoring wild pitch.

“It seemed liked we just kept at it, kept at it, kept picking
away,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Darren Oliver (3-4) walked Curtis Granderson leading off the
seventh, Raul Ibanez singled, Martin sacrificed and Nunez drove in
the go-ahead run. Derek Jeter’s RBI single put the Yankees ahead

“It’s a big win for us to be able come back in that
situation,” Girardi said.

Granderson added a two-run single in the ninth off Jason Frasor,
reaching 100 RBIs for the second straight year despite a .226
batting average.

Boone Logan (7-2) got the final two outs of the seventh as the
Yankees avoided consecutive defeats for the first time since a
three-game skid from Sept. 2-4. Rafael Soriano allowed Toronto to
load the bases with no outs in the ninth before Yunel Escobar hit
into a run-scoring, double-play grounder and Adam Lind grounded

Hughes gave up five runs, eight hits and two walks in 4 2-3
innings. He allowed his 35th home run, trailing only Ervin Santana
of the Los Angeles Angels.

“It was a bad day,” Hughes said. “Fortunately the guys
battled back and we got a win, which we really needed.”

New York’s rally spoiled a strong start by Alvarez, who closed
his season by allowing two runs and seven hits in six innings.

“He goes into the offseason, I would think, with a lot of
confidence about the way he’s pitched late in the season,” Blue
Jays manager John Farrell said.

Toronto went ahead in the first on Escobar’s RBI double and
Lind’s sacrifice fly. Chavez hit his 16th home run in the third,
connecting off Brett Cecil, but the Blue Jays scored three times in
the bottom half on Brett Lawrie’s two-run homer, a second-deck
drive to left, and Moises Sierra’s RBI single.

NOTES: New York 1B Mark Teixeira is expected to rejoin the
Yankees on Monday to play against Boston. Teixeira has played just
one game since Aug. 27 because of a strained left calf. …
Baltimore’s win clinched home field for the Orioles if there is a
one-game tiebreaker game to decide the AL East. …
Alex Rodriguez has failed to drive in a run in 11 straight games
for the first time since May 27-July 7, 2005, according to STATS
LLC. He is hitting .250 with two doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs
in 100 at-bats since returning from the DL on Sept. 3. … Blue
Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion left in the seventh with muscle
tightness in his left shoulder and neck. Colby Rasmus pinch hit for
Encarnacion and struck out. … Suzuki retired Encarnacion with a
running catch in the right field corner to begin the third, a play
Girardi called “tremendous.” … Yankees INF Jayson Nix is
expected to miss 10 to 14 days with a strained left hip.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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