TORONTO – Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston figures it must be time to figure out another way to pitch to Johnny Damon.
The veteran outfielder had two run-scoring singles and his 19th home run of the season and drove in three runs Wednesday as the Yankees completed a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays with an 8-4 win.
Toronto starter Marc Rzepczynski (1-3) took a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning but grooved a pitch to the first batter, Nick Swisher, who hit his 18th homer of the season to ignite a four-run inning. Rzepczynski was chased from the game one batter later, when Robinson Cano doubled.
Reliever Josh Roenicke, one of the players acquired last week from the Cincinnati Reds for third baseman Scott Rolen, got Melky Cabrera to ground out before surrendering a Hideki Matsui single which brought Cano home for the go-ahead run.
After Jose Molina walked and Derek Jeter struck out, Damon and Mark Teixeira followed with run-scoring singles to build the lead to 7-4.
Damon, whose ninth-inning homer completed the scoring, finished the mini-series 5-for-9 with three runs scored and four RBIs.
“He’s really hit us hard this year, and it’s mostly been off-speed stuff for me,” Gaston said. “He hit a pretty good changeup out of the ballpark (Wednesday). And also (Tuesday) got a curveball up from (Roy Halladay) and hit it out of he ballpark so I think we’d better come up with something else to throw him.”
Gaston doesn’t have much time to figure out an alternate strategy: The Jays open a series at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
Reliever Alfredo Aceves (7-1) pitched two innings in relief of Sergio Mitre, who gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings on eight hits – including Adam Lind’s 23rd homer. Marco Scutaro tied a career high with his ninth homer of the season in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Rzepczynski allowed just five hits in six-plus innings, while striking out seven. Gaston was impressed with the young right-hander, who made his sixth start of the season for Toronto after beginning the year in double-A.
“He pitched good, one walk,” Gaston said. “I know the inning before I took him out of the ballgame he was starting to get the ball up a little bit. That’s why I had somebody going (in the bullpen). He pitched well enough to win a ballgame that’s for sure.”
Rzepczynski acknowledged he had started to labour an inning earlier.
“The first couple of innings I had my good sinker and in the sixth it came a little bit up,” Rzepczynski said. “I got away with a couple of pitches in the sixth and in the seventh Swisher hit it out, nothing you can do about that they’re going to hit mistakes. It was right down the middle.”
The Blue Jays strung together four two-out singles in the first to take a 2-0 lead against Mitre, who was making his fourth start for the Yankees. Lind and Lyle Overbay started the rally with singles, and Vernon Wells and Alex Rios each followed with run-scoring hits.
The Yankees came back with two in the third. Jerry Hairston Jr. led off with a walk and Jeter singled with one out. Damon singled in one run, while Teixeira scored the other on a fielder’s choice grounder that could have been an inning-ending double play if third baseman Edwin Encarnacion had not juggled the ball slightly before getting the force at second.
Notes: The Blue Jays have Thursday off before playing the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game home series. Rookies Jason Berken and Chris Tillman are the Baltimore starters for the first two games with the third-game starter to be announced. Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Roy Halladay are Toronto’s scheduled starters. … More than 35 members of the Blue Jays’ World Series champion teams in 1992 and 1993 will be honoured on Friday. … OF Travis Snider was player of the week in the Pacific Coast League for last week after batting .538 (14-for-26) with 11 doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs for Toronto’s triple-A team at Las Vegas.