TORONTO -- Whew! The Yankees will not have to head for the border in fake beards and carrying phony passports. The Blue Jays did not spoil Derek Jeter's birthday party. The sweep, thankfully, was averted.
It was not easy and it was not quick, but it was done, as the Yankees bounced back from two bad defeats up here in the Great White North to salvage the final game of this three-game series with the AL East-leading Jays 5-3 to pull back within 2½ games of first place.
They did it in spite of less than timely hitting -- 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position -- and a somewhat shaky start by Hiroki Kuroda, who often seemed on the edge of disaster. Kuroda wound up with a "quality start" -- 6 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 8 H -- but the Yankees needed a lot of bullpen to get to the finish line.
Manager's special: How badly did Joe Girardi want this one? So badly that he used four pitchers to get the final eight outs, including David Robertson, who hadn't pitched for a week, for a five-out save. Robertson struck out both batters he faced in the eighth and pitched a clean ninth to earn his 18th save of the season.
Net effect: Mark Teixeira lined a hanging changeup from Drew Hutchison into the netting above the right-field fence with Jacoby Ellsbury aboard to give the Yankees a 4-2 third-inning lead. Teixeira's 14 HRs lead the Yankees, as do his 38 RBIs.
You've been Cerv-ed: Taking advantage of a rare start, Francisco Cervelli doubled off the right-field wall in his first at-bat, driving in Kelly Johnson (walk) from first to tie the game at 1-1 in the third inning. Later in the inning, Cervelli scored on Ellsbury's line single to center to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Hello, Hiro: Jose Reyes greeted Kuroda the same way he greeted Masahiro Tanaka last week at Yankee Stadium -- by jumping on a first-pitch fastball and driving it out of the park. It was the fourth leadoff HR the Blue Jays have hit off the Yankees this season; the other two were by Melky Cabrera, who also hit one off Tanaka in Tanaka's first MLB start, on April 4.
Melk Man delivers: Cabrera's line single to left in the fifth drove in two runs (Munenori Kawasaki, walk, and Reyes, ground-rule double) to cut the Yankees' lead to 4-3. In nine games against the Yankees this year, Cabrera is hitting .371 (13-for-35) with four of his 11 home runs coming at the expense of his former team.
Close call: The Yankees needed three pitchers to get out of the seventh inning and barely escaped unscathed after the Jays got runners on first and second with one out and Cabrera, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion coming to bat. First, Kuroda allowed a leadoff single to Kawasaki, and after a forceout, Girardi pulled his starter in favor of Shawn Kelley, who promptly allowed a single to Reyes. After Cabrera flied out, Girardi pulled Kelley for Matt Thornton. The Jays then executed a double steal, but with runners on second and third, Thornton got Lind to hit a comebacker to end the inning.
Missed opportunities: The Yankees had a runner on third with one out in the first inning after Brett Gardner led off with a double and Jeter sacrificed him over. But Ellsbury lined out to shortstop (a leaping catch by Reyes), and Teixeira bounced back to the pitcher to end the inning. Then, in the fifth, they loaded the bases with two outs on singles by Jeter and Ellsbury and a walk to Carlos Beltran, but Ichiro bounced back to the pitcher to quell that threat. But the worst was yet to come: In the seventh, the Yankees loaded the bases with none out and the 4-5-6 hitters coming up, but came away with just one run (see below). Hence, 1-for-10 with RISP.
Wildman: Blue Jays reliever Rob Rasmussen faced three batters in the seventh and retired none of them, wrapping walks to Gardner and Ellsbury around a HBP when he drilled Jeter in the left foot with a fastball. Gardner wound up scoring on Teixeira's sacrifice fly to center to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead.
Tomorrow: An off day for Derek Jeter's 40th birthday, followed by the start of a six-game homestand, beginning with a three-game weekend series against the Boston Red Sox. The probables: Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88) vs. TBA (probably Clay Buchholz, just reactivated) on Friday night at 7:05 p.m.; Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11) vs. LHP Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14) on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.; and Chase Whitley (3-1, 4.07) vs. RHP John Lackey (8-5, 3.45) Sunday at 8:05 p.m.