Friday night's 6-4 Yankees' victory over the Toronto Blue Jays started out as the baseball version of a five-alarm fire. Fifteen hits and four home runs between the two teams in the first three innings.
Even the Yankees' 40-year-old slap hitter Ichiro Suzuki got into the act of sending souvenirs into the outfield seats, slugging his first homer in 295 at-bats, dating to last Aug. 30. That came with two Yankees on base in the third inning, after Carlos Beltran clobbered a solo home run to lead off.
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"Obviously, I knew the stats," Suzuki said of his long- ball drought through a translator. "Now, that it's not a zero, maybe Michael Kay will be easy on me."
And Derek Jeter, too. During batting practice, each time Suzuki makes contact, he revealed, Jeter "always tells me, 'Can't leave, can't leave' [the park]." Then, Suzuki added slyly, "But, for Japanese people, it's hard to hear the 'T' at the end, so I think he says, 'Can leave. Can leave.' ''
Friday night it left. And the Yankees stretched their post All- Star record to 7-1, taking the first of three in a head-to-head match with their wild-card challengers, who have lost their last 17 games at Yankee Stadium. It was the Yankees' fifth straight come-from-behind victory.
Instead of mere cogs in the machinery of a Yankees' contrivance that has been no stranger to various breakdowns this season, fellows such as Brian McCann, new sensation Chase Headley and Brian Roberts were right in the thick of the attack.
McCann was 2-for-4 and scored twice. Headley was 3-for-4 and scored twice. Roberts had a run-scoring single. Francisco Cervelli had a single and double.
Not to be left out, Brett Gardner had a sacrifice fly. And, of course, Jeter got another hit, the 3,413th of his career (a single).
All of this to the benefit of Hiroki Kuroda, who endured some immediate muscle-flexing by Toronto in the first inning, when Jose Bautista followed singles by Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera with a mighty sock into the leftfield seats on a 3-and-0 pitch for a 3-0 Toronto lead.
Bautista encored that with a homer in the third, his 20th.
By then, the Yankees cranked up their own attack. In the second, they loaded the bases for Roberts (run-scoring single) and Gardner (sacrifice fly).
In the third, Beltran led off with his 11th homer. Then McCann and Headley singled and Suzuki, generously listed at 5-11 and 172 pounds, cleared the bases with his line drive into the rightfield porch.
That put the Yankees ahead, 6-4. They battered Toronto starter Mark Buehrle (10-7, 3.19 ERA), who has lost his last 10 decisions against the Yankees.
Then, the flames were extinguished. No more runs and only two more Yankees hits (and four Toronto hits) through the last six innings.
Kuroda (7-6, 3.99) got through 52/3 innings, allowing four runs and eight hits, with reinforcements David Huff, Shawn Kelley, Dellin Betances and David Robertson holding the fort. "The bullpen did what it was supposed to do," Robertson said. "And, as a team, we're just cranking now."
Oddly, after the blistering start, the Yankees wound up with an 11th consecutive game of allowing four or fewer runs. But it hardly felt like a pitchers' duel.