Updated at 12:13 a.m., Sept. 29, 2012
TORONTO (AP) — Fired up by a furious playoff race, Yankees catcher Russell Martin is finishing the season strong.
Martin hit a three-run homer, Eric Chavez added a two-run shot and New York maintained its one-game lead atop the AL East by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 11-4 on Friday night.
The victory let New York keep its slim lead over second-place Baltimore, which used six first-inning runs to beat Boston 9-1.
Martin, who has six home runs and 16 RBIs this month, said he’s feeding off New York’s battle with Baltimore.
“This is the type of baseball that I enjoy,” he said. “It’s high intensity. This is why you play the game.”
He acknowledged, however, that the Orioles are proving a difficult opponent to put away.
“We want them to lose as much as possible but they don’t really seem like they want to give in,” Martin said. “It’s going to be coming down to the wire.”
Martin came into the final month batting just .198, but has heated up since and is hitting .298 over his past 19 games.
“Just trying to make a bad season look better,” he said. “It’s September, it’s time to get going.”
Martin, who was born in suburban Toronto, went 2 for 4 with a walk and put on a show for about a dozen friends and family in the stands by hitting his career-high 20th homer.
“Trying to make them proud out there,” said the veteran catcher, who had 19 home runs with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007, his second big league season.
Nick Swisher had two hits and two RBIs for the Yankees, who have not lost consecutive games since a three-game skid from Sept. 2-4.
“Today we definitely came to the ballpark ready to go,” Swisher said. “That’s the team that I like to see play every single day.”
Hiroki Kuroda (15-11) won for the third time in five starts despite matching a season-high by allowing 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings. He gave up two runs, walked two and struck out four.
“His fastball was missing out over a little bit today,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He wasn’t living on the edges like we’re used to seeing.”
David Phelps worked 1 2-3 innings and David Robertson pitched the eighth. Cody Eppley got two outs in the ninth and Rafael Soriano finished for the Yankees.
Chavez capped it with a two-run drive to left off Bobby Korecky in the ninth, his 15th.
Colby Rasmus hit a solo home run and Adam Lind added a two-run shot for Toronto, which lost for the ninth time in 12 games.
Swisher opened the scoring with a two-run double to right off right-hander Chad Jenkins in the first.
“That kind of got us going and gave Hiroki a little cushion to start working with,” Girardi said.
The top of the first ended when Curtis Granderson drilled a liner back to the mound that ripped the glove off Jenkins’ left hand. The ball stayed in the glove as it flew into the air, and the rookie pitcher caught both glove and ball together to record the final out.
New York made it 3-0 in the second when Derek Jeter grounded into a bases-loaded double play.
The Blue Jays had five hits, including three doubles, against Kuroda through the first two innings but failed to score. Brett Lawrie was thrown out by first baseman Swisher on a ground ball when he strayed too far off second following his leadoff double in the first. Yunel Escobar was picked off third by Martin in the second.
“We took ourselves out of a couple of those run-scoring situations with some anticipation that didn’t work out well,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Toronto scored in the fifth when Rasmus led off with a drive to right. The homer was his 23rd, matching his career high.
The Yankees broke it open with a four-run, bat-around sixth. Robinson Cano was hit on the left hand but stayed in the game, and Swisher singled before reliever Brett Cecil struck out Granderson and Raul Ibanez.
Jason Frasor came on and gave up Martin’s homer. Chavez walked and Jeter lined a base hit to right before Ichiro Suzuki followed with an RBI single.
Kuroda left in the sixth after giving up a double to Kelly Johnson and a bloop single to Rajai Davis. Anthony Gose greeted David Phelps with an RBI fielder’s choice, cutting it to 7-2.
The Yankees made it 8-2 on Ibanez’s fielder’s choice groundout in the seventh, but Lind cut it to 8-4 by homering off Phelps in the bottom half, his 11th.
Suzuki doubled and stole third in the eighth before scoring on Cano’s bloop single off Aaron Loup.
Making just his second major league start, Jenkins (0-3) allowed three runs and four hits in 3 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out two.
“I didn’t throw a lot of strikes,” Jenkins said. “I was kind of all over the place.”
NOTES: Jeter’s single in the sixth was his ML-leading 209th hit. … Cano was scheduled to undergo precautionary X-rays after the game. … New York 1B Mark Teixeira (strained left calf) had six at-bats in a simulated game, ran the bases and took ground balls Friday. He will play five innings of an instructional league game Saturday and will likely rejoin the Yankees once they return home for the final three games of the season, Girardi said.
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