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Yankees rally in ninth to beat Blue Jays

NEW YORK (AP) -- Their closer gave up the go-ahead run, and the
winning hit came from a player who was not supposed to get an
at-bat.

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre would have preferred an
easier route to the win that moved New York into sole possession of
the AL wild-card lead.

Felix Escalona's bases-loaded single with two outs in the ninth
inning gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on
Tuesday night. New York is percentage points ahead of Cleveland for
the wild-card lead.

"It was a good game all the way around, and I don't ever want
to play it again," Torre said.

Hideki Matsui hit a tying homer in the ninth, and Derek Jeter
had two hits in his return to the lineup for the Yankees (69-55),
who scored in each of the final four innings to win for the ninth
time in 12 games and reach 14 games over .500 for the first time
this season.

Escalona, who got his first hit of the season Monday, went in to
play first base after Tino Martinez was pinch run for in the eighth
inning. Torre inserted Escalona into the No. 2 spot in the batting
order, which meant he was the seventh batter up in the ninth.

"Shows you how smart the manager is," Torre said. "You put
him in that spot so he won't have to come up."

New York, which didn't lead until the final hit, had been tied
for the wild-card lead with Oakland, which lost at Detroit.
Cleveland (70-56) is less than a percentage point behind the
Yankees.

Vernon Wells had three hits, including a homer, as the Blue Jays
wasted a strong start by Josh Towers and matched a season high with
their fifth straight loss.

"You can't blow leads," Towers said. "I blew two and we blew
four."

Toronto took a 4-3 lead off Mariano Rivera (6-3) in the ninth,
but Matsui led off the bottom half with his 20th homer, a drive off
Miguel Batista (5-5).

"I wasn't thinking home run at all against Batista," Matsui
said. "I was just trying to get on. It was definitely a huge win
for us."

Jorge Posada walked with one out, and Robinson Cano walked with
two outs. Batista then intentionally walked Jeter to load the bases
for Escalona, who singled to center on an 0-2 pitch for what he
said was his first game-winning hit.

"This is the first time, ever," he said. "I still can't
believe it. I've never felt this way before."

Now that Escalona has made a name for himself, maybe the Yankees
will even learn how to spell it. Called up earlier this month, the
nameplate in his locker still reads "Escolona."

"Keep it the same," he said with a laugh.

After New York tied it in the eighth, Orlando Hudson singled off
Rivera with one out when Escalona came off first base to grab
Jeter's high throw. Hudson took second on an infield out and scored
on Reed Johnson's single, beating Matsui's throw from left.

Al Leiter allowed three runs and six hits with one walk and five
strikeouts in seven-plus innings. The left-hander threw 121 pitches
-- 50 more than Towers needed to get the same amount of outs. Towers
gave up two runs and six hits, not enough for Toronto to halt its
slide.

"You've got to score a bunch and you've got to pitch lights
out," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And Josh did that."

Leiter had retired eight in a row before Wells hit his 23rd
homer with one out in the fourth. Gregg Zaun bounced an RBI single
up the middle for a 2-0 lead later in the inning.

Towers allowed a leadoff single to Jeter, then retired 15 in a
row before Martinez singled on the first pitch of the sixth and
scored on Bernie Williams' sacrifice fly. Posada hit a sacrifice
fly in the seventh, but Shea Hillenbrand hit an RBI single against
Tanyon Sturtze in the eighth for a 3-2 lead.

Williams' two-out run-scoring single retied the score in the
bottom half.

Game notes
Jeter missed the series opener because of a jammed right
thumb. He said the injury wasn't what kept him from playing Monday.
"I was available to play yesterday. He wanted me to have the day
off," Jeter said of manager Joe Torre. ... Toronto also lost five
in a row from April 20-25. ... Hudson made a diving stop in the
outfield grass of Williams' hard grounder to second in the fourth.