Ichiro, Swisher provide muscle as Yankees win, sweep Blue Jays

Nick Swisher watches the ball leave the park

Nick Swisher watches the ball leave the park for a grand slam in the fourth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 20, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

After watching Ichiro Suzuki treat the two games in Wednesday's doubleheader sweep of Toronto like extended batting practice, Nick Swisher offered this analysis:

"Today, I don't think anybody could have gotten him out," Swisher said. "You can dig up whatever pitcher you want, I don't think he had a chance today."

Thursday night, Aaron Laffey didn't, either.

Ichiro, 7-for-8 Wednesday, homered in his first at-bat against the Blue Jays lefthander and doubled in his second at-bat, helping the Yankees complete a three-game sweep with a 10-7 victory in front of 40,511 at the Stadium.

"The only thing stopping his balls lately are either the seats or the wall," Swisher said after the game. "He's locked in. It's a lot of fun to watch."

Ichiro, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and went 9-for-12 in the series, helped spark a seven-run fourth, highlighted by Swisher's grand slam -- which gave the Yankees an 8-2 lead -- with a two-run double.

"Baseball's a game where you really don't know the reason why certain things happen," said Ichiro, who was hitting .261 with the Mariners when the Yankees acquired him July 23 but raised his average with his new team Thursday night to .321 (54-for-168). "That's kind of what I've felt the last few days."

Joe Girardi put it in simple terms.

"He's in a real good place right now," the manager said.

The Yankees (86-63) are as well, suddenly surging with 10 wins in their last 14 games. They increased their AL East lead to one game over the idle Orioles.

"All teams that are contending teams always go through ups and downs during the year," said Ichiro, hoping to make the postseason for the first time since 2001. "Having this momentum come at this point in the season, I think that's the Yankees and what makes this team special."

Swisher said some of the confidence sapped from the clubhouse during the rough period when a 10-game division lead evaporated -- the Orioles have tied the Yankees a handful of times but never taken the lead over them -- has returned.

"I feel we're getting that inner confidence back that we lost there for a little bit," he said. "Regardless, whatever the situation is, whatever team we're playing, we feel we're going to go out there and get the job done."

The Yankees were getting the job done easily Thursday night, leading 10-4 after five. But that advantage was cut to 10-7 in the eighth, an inning in which the Blue Jays (66-82) got the tying run to the plate against Joba Chamberlain (Cory Wade was charged with the three runs).

David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his second save of the season.

"You do what you have to do to win a game," said Girardi, who preferred to stay away from Robertson if he could have.

Phil Hughes (16-12, 4.05) benefited from the run support, though he wasn't as sharp as in his previous outing last Thursday in Boston when he shut out the Red Sox over 71/3 innings of a 2-0 victory.

After being handed the 8-2 lead, Hughes gave two runs back, walking Adam Lind, then allowing Moises Sierra's two-run homer, the 34th homer he's given up this season, the second-highest total in the majors. Hughes allowed four runs and four hits in five innings. He walked three, struck out nine and hit two batters.

"He didn't have great command tonight," Girardi said.

Hughes, agreed, and was more than happy to get bailed out by the offense. "The changeup command came and went, the fastball was kind of all over the place," Hughes said. "It was a nice night to get a lot of runs because I definitely needed it."

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