NEW YORK (AP) -- Jason Giambi took a curtain call and Esteban
Loaiza got the souvenir ball. For a pair of guys struggling since
playing in the All-Star game, it was a nice time to break out.
Giambi homered to end the longest slump of his career and Loaiza
finally earned his 100th career victory and first for the Yankees,
leading New York over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Tuesday night.
"It doesn't get much better than that," Giambi said.
Added Loaiza: "I feel a lot more part of it now."
Gary Sheffield hit his 36th home run two days after getting a
pair of cortisone shots. Alex Rodriguez almost homered for the
Yankees, too, but center fielder Vernon Wells made a spectacular
catch to stop him.
"You hate to rob guys of stuff they earn, but that's the way it
goes," Wells said.
Mariano Rivera matched his career high with his 50th save as the
Yankees held their 4½-game lead over Boston in the AL East and
stopped Toronto's three-game winning string.
Giambi had been 0-for-32, with 11 of those at-bats coming since
he returned from the disabled list after being diagnosed with a
benign tumor. Manager Joe Torre kept the former AL MVP on the bench
the previous three games, but started him this time because he had
good career numbers against Roy Halladay.
Batting seventh for the first time this season, Giambi went the
opposite way for a two-run shot to left-center in the second. Torre
clapped in the dugout while Derek Jeter and several teammates came
out to greet the slugger. Giambi later added a sacrifice fly.
"Everybody is pulling for him," Torre said. "Sometimes when
everyone is pulling for you, you try too hard. It doesn't always
turn out that way."
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, Torre is
still deciding whether Giambi is swinging well enough to make the
postseason roster. Giambi's 12th home run was his first since June
20 against Los Angeles closer Eric Gagne.
"Now, it's just backing it up day after day," Giambi said.
Loaiza (10-7) outpitched Halladay (7-8) after finishing
runner-up to the Toronto ace last year in the AL Cy Young voting.
Halladay came off the disabled list to make this start and left
after four innings trailing 3-2 -- it was his first outing since
July 16, when he went on the DL for the second time this season
because of a tired right shoulder.
Loaiza started for the first time since Aug. 27, having been
banished to the bullpen because of ineffectiveness. He won No. 100
on his seventh try -- the Yankees got the two-time All-Star from the
Chicago White Sox on July 31 for equally puzzling Jose Contreras.
"I want to take it beyond today," he said.
After fanning three on called third strikes in the first inning,
Loaiza completely lost control in the second. He walked three, and
Toronto scored on Kevin Cash's sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. When
it was posted on the scoreboard that Tanyon Sturtze was warming up
for the Yankees, the fans cheered.
At that point, Loaiza had gone to a three-ball count on eight of
11 batters. But after quickly returning to the clubhouse to watch
video of his pitches, he did it only once more and retired his
final 11 hitters.
Loaiza was all smiles when Torre pulled him after 5 1-3 innings,
and he tipped his hat to the crowd.
"I was hopeful," said Torre, who gave Loaiza the lineup card.
"After he got through that one inning, he was great."
Relievers Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon blanked
the Blue Jays before Rivera pitched the ninth. He gave up an RBI
groundout to pinch-hitter Chris Gomez, then got the last out and
gave the ball to Loaiza.
Wells kept the Yankees from scoring more. Rodriguez launched a
high drive in the first and Wells planted his spikes into the
padded wall, pulled himself up on the 7-foot-3 fence and jackknifed
over to make a backhanded catch.
Fans gasped when they saw the replay and gave a rare cheer for a
visiting player. At the end of the inning, Wells got high-fives
from his teammates and Rodriguez trotted toward him.
"He was yelling at me. I couldn't understand what he was
saying, but he wasn't too happy with me," Wells said with a grin.
Giambi is 14-for-40 with three homers off Halladay. ...
Sheffield hit his 415th homer, moving past Darrell Evans into 36th
place on the career list. ... Brandon League made his major league
debut and became the team-record 25th pitcher used by Toronto this
year. He relieved in the fifth, threw a 96 mph called strike to
Sheffield with his first pitch and worked 1 1-3 scoreless innings.