TORONTO (AP) — Try as they might, the Blue Jays couldn’t keep Curtis Granderson off the basepaths, or in the ballpark.
Granderson’s 40th homer of the season, a two-run drive off Carlos Villanueva, proved the difference as the Yankees rallied from a five-run deficit to beat Toronto 7-6 Saturday.
Mariano Rivera tied the major league saves record, earning the 601st of his career, but Granderson’s seventh-inning homer to center was the hit that had the Blue Jays hanging their heads. It came at the end of a 12 pitch at-bat, and after Granderson had fouled off seven straight pitches.
“You have to tip your cap,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “He fouled off four different types of pitches on those seven foul balls. (Villanueva) kept him in the big part of the ballpark but obviously the ball was carrying today.”
Granderson went 3 for 3, scored twice and walked twice.
If containing Granderson was a challenge, trying to rally against Rivera in the ninth was just as difficult. The 41-year-old was perfect in recording his 42nd save of the season, striking out Colby Rasmus looking to start the inning before getting Brett Lawrie on a broken-bat grounder to first. While some in the crowd of 39,288 headed for the exits, most stayed to watch as Rivera got Eric Thames on a routine fly to center.
“That was pretty tough, 92 mile an hour turbocutters,” Rasmus said. “Pretty tough.”
Even before Granderson caught Thames’ fly ball, Rivera walked off the mound with his head lowered to shake hands with catcher Russell Martin. Rivera broke into a smile during the postgame congratulations line and embraced teammate Alex Rodriguez.
Granderson flipped Rivera the souvenir ball.
If Rivera doesn’t get break Trevor Hoffman’s mark Sunday, he’ll likely reach it sometime during an eight-game homestand that begins Monday.
“602 is the big one because it just puts the final stamp on it that he’s the greatest closer of all time,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rivera, whose wife and two youngest sons joined him in Toronto for the weekend, told the media hordes gathered around his locker that he doesn’t enjoy the spotlight of his record pursuit.
“I am uncomfortable because I don’t (usually) have this much attention at all,” he said, smiling. “I would like you guys to just leave it alone. That would be good.”
Rivera, now in his 17th season in the big leagues, recorded his 600th save at Seattle on Tuesday. He also has 42 saves in postseason play.
“Mo is awesome,” Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said. “You just run out of things to say about him. Every save he’s had in his career meant something, and tonight was another example of that.”
Farrell called Rivera “the standard by which all are compared.”
“If you’re a fan of baseball and the game, you appreciate how good he is, how consistent he is,” Farrell said.
The tying save came in Rivera’s 60th appearance of the year, surpassing former Yankees teammate Mike Stanton with a record 14 seasons of 60 games.
Rodriguez hit his 16th home run as the AL East leaders ended a two-game skid.
Aaron Laffey (3-2) pitched one inning for the win. Scott Proctor, Laffey, Hector Noesi and Rafael Soriano each worked a scoreless inning before Rivera closed it out.
Bartolo Colon, who has not won in eight starts, allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings for New York.
“It wasn’t great,” Girardi said. “Six runs in four innings is not what we expect from Bartolo. We’ll see if we can get him back on track his next start.”
The Yankees closed to 6-5 in the sixth. Granderson led off with a double and scored when Rasmus bobbled Mark Teixeira’s single to center. Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch and Rodriguez followed with his first home run since Sept. 4.
“I came up in the same situation a couple of innings before and didn’t come through so I was glad to get another opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “I got a good pitch to hit and capitalized.”
Derek Jeter opened the Yankees seventh with an infield single and Granderson homered against Carlos Villanueva (6-4).
The Blue Jays scored four times in the second against Colon. Rasmus and Jose Molina each hit RBI doubles, Lawrie drove in a run with a groundout and Mike McCoy capped it with a squeeze bunt.
Toronto added to its lead and chased Colon with two runs in the bottom half, with McCoy hitting a two-out double to right.
NOTES: Rivera has blown five saves this season. … Rodriguez batted fifth for the first time this season. He scored the 1,821st run of his career, tying Eddie Collins for 14th place on the all time list. … Rasmus snapped an 0-for-19 slump with his double in the second. … Loewen made his first start in left field after previous appearances in right and center. … New York RHP Freddy Garcia (11-7) faces Toronto RHP Brandon Morrow (9-11) in Sunday’s series finale.