TORONTO - It would be a stretch to call it a season-saving victory.
Not with plenty of hill for the Yankees still to climb to claim the American League's second wild-card spot; not with so many teams who are chasing it still bunched together.
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Regardless, Wednesday night's 4-3 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre oozed with significance, not the least of which was because with six outs to go, the Bombers' season looked as if it had flat-lined.
But trailing 3-0 going into the eighth inning, the Yankees, their offense moribund during a four-game losing streak, rallied for four runs to stun the Blue Jays.
"Maybe'' was the furthest Joe Girardi would go in declaring the victory a season saver.
Vernon Wells, whose two-run double turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead, put it best. "For now,'' the former Blue Jay said.
The Yankees (80-72) entered the night 3½ games out of the final wild-card spot, so a loss, with 10 games to go, would have all but finished them.
Now they're 21/2 games out, and they live another day.
"There's still a long way to go,'' Girardi said, "but it's a lot better feeling in this clubhouse than it's been for a while.''
Girardi again went to Mariano Rivera for an inning-plus save, calling on the 43-year-old after Rajai Davis' two-out single off David Robertson in the eighth. After a pitchout as Davis stole second, Girardi brought on Rivera in the eighth for the fourth time in the last two weeks.
"I know these games are crucial,'' Rivera said, "so everybody has to be ready because the call can come at any time.''
Rivera, who has seven blown saves, got Brett Lawrie to ground out but did not have an easy ninth. Adam Lind singled, as did Colby Rasmus, who hit a two-run homer earlier, putting runners on first and second with none out.
Pinch hitter Munenori Kawasaki failed on his sacrifice attempt, bunting to first baseman Lyle Overbay, who cut down the runner at third. After Ryan Goins grounded out, moving the potential tying and winning runs to second and third, Rivera struck out J.P. Arencibia for his 44th save.
"We wanted to make sure we got one out, and the out had to be at third base,'' Rivera said. "We talked about it and we executed it.''
The Yankees entered the eighth trailing 3-0 to J.A. Happ, who came in 4-6 with a 5.15 ERA but pitched like a Cy Young candidate this time.
The night's biggest hit very well might have been the leadoff double by Brendan Ryan because after it, John Gibbons felt compelled to go to his bullpen. Curtis Granderson singled off lefty Aaron Loup, and more damage followed against Steve Delabar, with Robinson Cano (single), Alfonso Soriano (RBI double) and Wells (two-run double) contributing huge hits.
"This game was very important,'' Soriano said. "Thank God we scored four runs in the eighth. We needed that game tonight for sure.''
Wells said delivering against his former team didn't make it any sweeter.
"It's fun just to do it, we needed a win,'' he said. "Things have been ugly over the last few days. Hopefully, this is something that can kick-start something special for us.''
Girardi again tag-teamed Phil Hughes and David Huff, and each had a degree of success. Hughes shut out the Blue Jays for three innings before getting burned on Rasmus' two-run homer with one out in the fourth.
That would be all for Hughes. Huff, after retiring a batter, gave up Goins' first career homer, and the Blue Jays led 3-0. That was the only hit Huff allowed in 32/3 innings.
"All these games are huge,'' Huff said. "We need to continue it and keep winning. There's no more little bumps in the road. It's get it done or go home.''