TORONTO – Consistently down but never out, the New York Yankees needed another late rally at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Wednesday night to top the Blue Jays 4-3 and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
After seeing the offense shut down by Toronto pitching for seven innings, the Yankees came alive with a four-run eighth inning to take their first lead of the night. The rally was capped when Joe Girardi showed faith in veteran outfielder Vernon Wells to come through in a righty-on-righty matchup against All-Star Steve Delabar. Wells did just that, stroking a two-run double to the left field wall that gave the Yankees the lead.
“I just felt good about Vernon getting the run in,” Girardi said. “Vernon’s been swinging the bat pretty decent, and I just felt that he’s a guy that can drive a ball, hit a fly ball, and get the run in.”
“I had some good swings today and he allowed me to get up in that spot,” Wells noted of his go-ahead at-bat. “Thankfully I got the opportunity, and I’m glad I could repay him for it.”
The inning began with back-to-back hits from Brendan Ryan and Curtis Granderson, chasing Toronto starter J.A. Happ. Robinson Cano then drove in New York’s first run with an RBI single and Alfonso Soriano followed him with an RBI double, setting the table for Wells’ heroics with the Yankees trailing by a run.
Phil Hughes received a quick hook on the mound despite retiring nine of the first 11 batters he faced through the first three innings. In the fourth, Hughes allowed a two-run home run to Colby Rasmus to give Toronto a 2-0 lead and ending Hughes’ night early. He was replaced by David Huff, who provided the Yankees with 3 1/3 innings of solid relief. His lone hit was a fourth-inning home run allowed to Ryan Goins.
After David Robertson recorded a pair of outs in the eighth inning, Girardi turned to all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera for a four-out save. Rivera had to work around back-to-back singles to start the ninth inning in order to nail down his 44th save of the season.
“We have to be prepared for that,” Rivera said of being needed for four-out saves. “I know these games are crucial, so everybody has to be ready because the call can come any time. … It’s a huge game. Huge.”
The victory ensured the Yankees, who entered Wednesday 3.5 games behind the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card race, picked up ground in the playoff race. They now sit 2.5 games behind after losses by the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians.