Yankees increase their lead
New York - Streaking Ichiro Suzuki hit a go-ahead, two-run double in a seven-run fourth inning capped by Nick Swisher's grand slam, and the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-7 Thursday night to open a one-game American League East lead over idle Baltimore.
After struggling for much of the summer, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays and have won five in a row, their longest winning string since June 23-27.
Backed by an 8-2 lead, Phil Hughes (16-12) lasted just five innings.
Toronto trailed 10-4 before a three-run eighth. David Robertson got three outs for his second save this season and first since May 8.
New York was down 2-0 before Suzuki's solo home run in the third. He hooked a based-loaded double to right in the fourth on an 0-2 pitch, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead and extending Suzuki's spurt to nine hits in 10 at-bats.
That chased starter Aaron Laffey (3-6), and reliever Brad Lincoln loaded the bases with a walk to Jayson Nix. Derek Jeter followed with an RBI for a 14-game hitting streak, and Swisher sent a 96 mph fastball into the right-field seats for his seventh career slam and third this season.
Hughes (16-12) won his third straight start, allowing four runs and four hits with nine strikeouts. Hughes struck out Kelly Johnson with the bases loaded to end the third, then tied a major league record in the fourth by striking out four batters: J.P. Arencibia, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Brett Lawrie. Hechavarria reached on Russell Martin's passed ball.
New York, which led the division by 10 games in late July, has been in the unusual position of scoreboard watching of late.
"It's impossible not to see the scoreboard. It's so big in front of you," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You look at the outfielders, where they're positioned, and you look at the infielders, where they're positioned, and there's the scoreboard."
Still, he didn't stay up to watch Baltimore's extra-inning wins at Seattle the previous two nights.
"It's too late for me," he said. "I also have little kids that like to get - be up early. So I went to bed, checked the scores when I got up this morning."
Toronto dropped to 66-82, ensuring the Blue Jays' second straight losing season and third in four years. Laffey gave up five runs - four earned - five walks and two hits in three-plus innings, dropping to 0-4 in his last six starts. There were 13 walks, eight by Toronto pitchers, and Blue Jays batters struck out 15 times.
New York's big fourth inning started when Martin walked and took second on a delayed steal, Curtis Granderson reached when Johnson fumbled his grounder to second and Casey McGehee loaded the bases for Suzuki with a walk.
Toronto built its lead when Johnson hit an RBI double in the second and Hughes hit Moises Sierra in the left ribs with a bases-loaded pitch in the third.
After Sierra's fifth-inning homer closed the Blue Jays to 8-4, the Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth against Brett Cecil. Granderson popped a 200-foot, wind-blown double that Sierra chased from right field but allowed to fall on the grass behind second base. Nix doubled in a run and scored on Jeter's single.
Johnson homered in the eighth off Cory Wade, Lawrie had a run-scoring single against Joba Chamberlain and Mike McCoy hit into an RBI forceout.
• New York (86-63) matched its season high of 23 games over .500. ... Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was on hand for a pregame tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who died Aug. 6, accompanying the composer's wife, Terre. Hamlisch was a friend of Torre's and an occasional guest in his Yankee Stadium office. ... The only other Yankees pitcher with four Ks in an inning was A.J. Burnett against Colorado on June 24 last year. ... The Yankees have 10 slams this season, tying the team record set in 1987 and matched in 2010 and 2011. Swisher had slams April 21 at Boston and Aug. 13 vs. Texas.
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