TORONTO - Maybe two seconds after Jacoby Ellsbury collected his third single in as many at-bats Tuesday night, a fire alarm went off inside Rogers Centre. The Yankees centerfielder's bat is that hot.
Ellsbury continued a torrid pace, ripping three hits, stealing two bases and scoring two runs in the first five innings of the Yankees' 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays.
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"It's hard to imagine being hotter than he is,'' Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury, who in 12 games since April 22 is 23-for-49, raising his average to a team-best .358, with 11 runs, one homer, four RBIs and eight stolen bases. "He's been unbelievable.''
Though not quite as hot as Ellsbury, Michael Pineda continued his stellar pitching with eight shutout innings, again helping the Yankees (17-10) withstand the loss of Masahiro Tanaka, out at least the next three weeks.
"He was on the attack all night,'' Brian McCann said of Pineda, who improved to 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA. "He's a top of the rotation starter on any staff.''
The shutout ended in the ninth when David Carpenter imploded, and the Blue Jays (13-15) eventually got the tying run to the plate. Carpenter allowed a home run to former Yankee Russell Martin, who had three hits, and Chris Colabello's double made it 6-2. Ryan Goins' single made it 6-3, ending Carpenter's night.
Andrew Miller walked pinch hitter Jose Bautista before he improved to 11-for-11 in save chances by getting Devon Travis to fly to right.
"Not what you want to do, but we had to,'' Girardi said of having to call on his closer.
Ellsbury, who went 3-for-5, made it 18 hits in 33 at-bats (.545) with his fifth-inning single.
"You just go up there each and every day and try to put quality at-bats together,'' said Ellsbury, who singled and scored in the first on Alex Rodriguez's two-run double. "Just trying to keep it going as long as possible.''
Ellsbury wasn't alone in helping the AL East leaders earn their 14th win in 18 games. Pineda (4-0), after struggling to find his slider and giving up a handful of hard-hit balls in the first three innings, ended up allowing five hits and one walk, with six strikeouts. He has walked only three all season and struck out 38.
"That's what people don't talk about,'' McCann said of Pineda's command. "He pounds the zone with three pitches and he knows exactly where they're going.''
Mark Teixeira's team-best 10th home run, a two-run shot in the fifth, brought in Ellsbury and gave Pineda a 5-0 cushion. Teixeira's 373rd homer tied teammate Carlos Beltran for fourth among switch hitters.
Marco Estrada (1-1), in his first career start for the Blue Jays, allowed five runs (four earned) and eight hits in 42/3 innings.
Ellsbury led off the game with a single. Brett Gardner fouled off five straight pitches in an 11-pitch at-bat and blooped a double to right-center that put runners at second and third. A-Rod, hitting .156 with two homers and three RBIs the previous 12 games, lined a changeup into the leftfield corner for a double that made it 2-0.
"Any time you score runs [early], it takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher,'' said Ellsbury, plenty responsible for doing that of late. "And Big Mike, he pitched great. He looked tremendous. Nice win for us.''