Sweet sweep continues Yanks’ turnaround

The brief homestand turned out a nice rest stop for the Yankees, who continued their dominance of the Blue Jays this season with a four-game sweep that improved their record against Toronto to 12-1. The dustup of the Jays was just the sort of momentum builder the Yanks needed as they headed for St. Petersburg, Fla., for a three-game showdown with the Rays.

It was not too long ago that the upcoming set at Tropicana Field would not have much at stake, back when the Yankees were 11 ½ games out of first place in the American League East and 7 ½ games out of the second wild-card spot. How things change when a few potent bats are added to the lineup.

After Thursday’s 5-3 victory, their fifth straight, the Yankees stood six games behind the first-place Red Sox in the division and 3 1/2 back in the wild-card chase. Considered buried in the not so distant past, the Yankees are now very much in the hunt for another postseason berth.

“We’re continuing to make up ground and winning series,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It makes [postseason play] seem more attainable.”

After suffering through eight straight non-winning series, the Yankees have run off four winning series in a row and have won 10 of their past 12 games. The trade for Alfonso Soriano and the return from the disabled list of Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez are major factors in the Yankees’ recent turnaround.

As Girardi said, “You feel you can back into the game pretty easily.”

The Yankees came from behind in all four games against the Jays. In Thursday’s game, Toronto went ahead on a home run by J.P. Arencibia off Andy Pettitte. Rodriguez made a fine maneuver to pull off a rally-killing double play in that inning and Granderson answered Arencibia’s home run with one of his own off J.A. Happ, the pitcher who broke his wrist in spring training, to tie the score.

Yet another questionable umpiring call helped the Yankees later in the fifth when a fly ball by Vernon Wells that appeared to have been caught by center fielder Rajai Davis was ruled a trap as a run scored. Video replays indicated that Davis had indeed caught the ball. There was no reason for the Yankees to feel bad about that because Rodriguez was called out at first base on an earlier play that replays showed he clearly had beaten.

The Yanks scored three runs with only one hit in the sixth as they took advantage of three walks that loaded the bases for Eduardo Nunez, who singled in two runs. In all, the Yankees received six free passes in the game.

Pettitte pitched a sturdy six innings (one run, four hits, three walks, three strikeouts) in winning his second straight decision and getting his record back to .500 at 9-9. He continued his career success against the Blue Jays with a 24-13 mark. Shawn Kelley had a bit of a hiccup in the seventh when he allowed two runs, but effective relief work by Preston Claiborne and David Robertson (second save) put a nice finish to a very long day.

The start of the game was held up for 3 ½ hours because of rain. The sun finally broke through around the time of the first pitch. The Yankees remained in the sunshine the rest of the way.

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