Updated: 9/30/10 7:01 a.m.
TORONTO (AP) – Cito Gaston’s slugging Blue Jays gave him an appropriate goodbye.
Aaron Hill hit a three-run homer, John Buck and Travis Snider added solo drives and the Blue Jays gave their retiring manager a winning send-off in his home finale, beating the New York Yankees 8-4 on Wednesday night.
“What a way to go out,” said Gaston, who was showered with beer and water by his players after the game.
The struggling Yankees, who have lost six of eight, remained a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the AL East race. The Rays lost 2-0 to Baltimore.
Alex Rodriguez homered for the Yankees, giving him 13 straight years with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
Toronto leads baseball with 247 home runs, the fifth-highest season total in major league history. Seattle hit a record 264 in 1997.
Hill drove in four runs as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in seven games. The Yankees, already assured a playoff spot, saw Javier Vazquez (10-10) get tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings.
“I had nothing,” Vazquez said. “I didn’t feel like my pitches were sharp at all.”
Brett Cecil (14-7) allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings to win his third straight outing. He is 11-2 with a 3.47 ERA in 15 starts against AL East opponents.
Jason Frasor worked 1 2-3 innings and Shawn Camp pitched the eighth for Toronto. Kevin Gregg came on after the first two batters reached against Jesse Carlson in the ninth. Gregg gave up an RBI grounder to Rodriguez, then got Robinson Cano to fly to center for the final out.
Rodriguez has 123 RBIs. His 14 seasons with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs are the most in major league history.
“It feels good,” Rodriguez said. “You strive to be consistent every year.”
Hank Aaron holds the record with 15 seasons with at least 30 home runs. Rodriguez and Barry Bonds are tied for second with 14.
Gaston was honored in a 30-minute pregame celebration featuring former players George Bell, Joe Carter, Pat Hentgen and Devon White. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he thanked the fans for their support, and the crowd of 33,143 gave him several standing ovations.
“I was certainly trying to hold it back but I think all the different things that were said out there, you just can’t hold that back after a while,” Gaston said. “I was just feeling that you try to do the best job you can at all times, but when you find out that you touched that many people’s lives, and it’s all for the good, how can you hold it back?”
Outfielder Jose Bautista, who has flourished under Gaston and leads the majors with 52 home runs, said he enjoyed the outpouring of gratitude.
“It shows he’s a loved man in this town,” Bautista said. “He brought two championships to this city. He’s an icon in Toronto baseball. It was great seeing all the support he was getting from the fans and the love there is for him here. It was awesome.”
The first black manager to win the World Series, Gaston guided the Blue Jays to consecutive championships in 1992 and 1993. He managed Toronto through 1997, was hitting coach in 2000 and 2001 and returned as manager in June 2008.
Toronto star Vernon Wells complimented Gaston on his trademark mustache during the speeches. After the ceremony ended, many Blue Jays and coaches used eye black to draw fake mustaches on their faces.
Most players found the eye black uncomfortable on their upper lip and wiped it off after an inning or two, but Snider stuck with it longest.
“He had a home run and then another hit,” Bautista said. “He was rolling with it.”
The Blue Jays’ total home attendance for the season was 1,625,555. That’s their lowest total since 1982, when they drew 1,275,978.
Once the game began, Snider got the Blue Jays rolling with a leadoff drive to right in the first, his 13th and second in as many games.
Buck hit his 20th homer in the second, becoming the sixth Toronto player to reach the mark this season. John McDonald followed with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Snider’s single.
Toronto added one in the fourth when Hill scored on McDonald’s grounder, then pulled away in the fifth when Hill hit his 26th home run.
Hill’s drive spelled the end for Vazquez, who started in place of Andy Pettitte after New York clinched a playoff berth by beating Toronto 6-1 on Tuesday.
Vazquez was disappointed not to do more to make a case for his inclusion on the playoff roster.
“Today was an important day for me personally and it didn’t go well,” Vazquez said.
The Yankees chased Cecil with a three-run sixth. Rodriguez homered and Francisco Cervelli and Greg Golson hit RBI singles. Frasor came on and escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Nick Swisher to ground into a double play.
Hill made it 8-3 with an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain in the seventh.
NOTES: 3B Rodriguez made a throwing error in the seventh, his first error since July 16 against Tampa Bay. … Yankees manager Joe Girardi went over to shake Gaston’s hand before batting practice. … Pettitte and A.J. Burnett will start at Boston on Friday and Saturday, Girardi said. The starter for Sunday’s season finale has not been announced. … Bautista, Wells, Hill, Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay are the other Blue Jays with 20 or more homers.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)