By Dave Skretta
NEW YORK (AP) Eric Chavez drove in a run and broke up a potential double play that helped lead to three more, making the most of a spot start and sending the New York Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Derek Jeter hit a sacrifice fly, and Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner also drove in runs for the Yankees, who played small ball to perfection against Toronto.
A.J. Burnett (4-1) scrapped his way through six innings for New York, despite giving up nine hits and having to wiggle his way out of a jam in just about every one of them.
The right-hander struck out Edwin Encarnacion and Mike McCoy to strand runners in scoring position in the first inning, picked off Rajai Davis on first base in the fifth, and watched as Martin threw out Juan Rivera trying to steal third base to end the sixth inning.
The bullpen went the rest of the way, with Mariano Rivera picking up his ninth save.
McCoy hit his first career homer for the Blue Jays, then made an incredible fielding play in the seventh inning when he did a Fred Astaire impersonation – dancing and twirling into shallow right field, then making an over-the-shoulder basket grab of a pop by Nick Swisher.
McCoy then spun around and threw to first base to double off Robinson Cano.
David Cooper added his first career RBI, and Yunel Escobar and Adam Lind drove in runs for the Jays, who squandered a chanced to win back-to-back games at Yankee Stadium but can still become the first team to win a series against New York at home in the finale on Sunday.
Chavez started at third base in place of Alex Rodriguez, who got the day off, and drove in a run off Kyle Drabek (2-1) with a single in the third inning.
But it was Chavez’s seemingly innocuous baserunning play the previous inning that gave the Yankees their biggest lift – and ultimately a lead they would never relinquish.
Swisher led off the second with a bloop single to left, and Chavez drew a walk before Jorge Posada grounded to second base. Chavez made a nice slide that prevented Toronto from turning the double play, and Martin followed moments later with a tying RBI single.
Gardner then walked to load the bases for Jeter, whose sacrifice fly gave New York the lead on what should have been the final out of the inning. Granderson then lined a base hit on an 0-2 pitch from Drabek, scoring Martin and giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
Lind got Toronto within a run with his sacrifice fly in the third, but Chavez and Gardner drove in a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it 5-2.
Drabek wound up making a forgettable debut in the Bronx, where his father, Doug, played his rookie season for the Yankees in 1986 – just across the street at the old ballpark.
The 23-year-old right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits with four walks in 2 1-3 innings, as Toronto lost for the first time in his six starts this season.
The Blue Jays bullpen kept them in the game, allowing only two baserunners – both erased on double plays – and no hits over 5 2-3 innings.
The Yankees bullpen was just as good, though.
Joba Chamberlain pitched a perfect seventh inning, and Rafael Soriano worked around a two-out single by Lind to get through the eighth, setting up Rivera to close it out. He got McCoy to fly out to right field, stranding the winning run on second base.
NOTES: Toronto manager John Farrell said Encarnacion (sore left wrist) has experienced no lingering effect from his injury since returning to the lineup earlier this week. … Yankees RHP Carlos Silva threw three scoreless innings in his first extended spring start Saturday. RHP Luis Ayala (strained back muscle) pitched 1 1-3 innings in the same game.
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