Yankees 5 Blue Jays 4
NEW YORK — The Yankees ran on the field for the second straight night. This time it was to celebrate after they fought back with their bats, not their fists.
Hideki Matsui tied the score with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, Francisco Cervelli followed with a winning single in the ninth and New York capped its next-to-last homestand of the regular season with a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
“This is as good as it gets when you’re finishing off a homestand and going on a tough road trip,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s nice to win a game and feel like you can put what happened behind us.”
A day after brawling in the Bronx, the Blue Jays and Yankees made it through nine innings calmly on the first chilly night of late summer, and the Yankees came away with their 14th walkoff win, their most since setting a team record with 17 in 1943.
Without Jorge Posada, serving the first of a three-game suspension for his role in Tuesday night’s fight, New York rallied against Scott Downs on Matsui’s 25th homer — his team-high 12th off a left-hander.
Brett Gardner, who entered an inning earlier, singled off Jason Frasor (6-3) leading off the ninth. He times all pitchers to the plate, and had Frasor at 1.2 seconds on his first two pitches to Derek Jeter, who fell behind 0-2 and fouled off a pitch. Gardner then took off for second, estimating Frasor took 1.4 seconds to get the ball to the plate, and he made it safely.
“Pitchers really do a better job nowadays of holding runners on,” said Gardner, whose steal of third sparked the Yankees to a win over the Los Angeles Angels two nights earlier. “There’s not many times I get on first base and a guy is really, really slow and say, ’Oh, I got this really, really easy.”’
Gardner took third as Jeter grounded out and scored on a single to left by Cervelli, who got in the game in the eighth after Jose Molina was pinch hit for.
Cervelli, who predicted while talking with Edwar Ramirez in the bullpen that he’d get the winning hit, was on the receiving end of a whipped cream pie from A.J. Burnett.
“I did it! I did it!” the 23-year-old thought to himself. “I was waiting for a long time — the pie. It tastes good.”
Gardner was sidelined from July 25 until Sept. 7 with a broken thumb and could play and important role for the Yankees in the post-season.
“There were times during that six weeks that I said to myself, ‘Man, I wish I had Gardy right now,”’ Girardi said.
Mariano Rivera (3-2) pitched a one-hit ninth for New York (94-53), which maintained a 6 1/2-game lead over second-place Boston (86-58) in the AL East and opened a seven-game lead over the Angels (86-59) for best record in the AL.