NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez hit a go-ahead double in the seventh inning and the surging New York Yankees won their fifth straight game, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1.
Roger Clemens pitched out of trouble for six gritty innings to keep New York close, and Andy Phillips delivered another clutch hit as the Yankees (48-44) moved a season-high four games above .500.
Mariano Rivera entered in the eighth and got five outs for his fourth save in five days.
By winning 11 of 14 overall, the Yankees have trimmed Boston’s AL East lead to seven games – the closest they’ve been since after games of May 12. They also gave manager Joe Torre a nice 67th birthday present.
Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu started the seventh-inning rally that got Yankee Stadium rocking for one of the few times all season. Eager for a second-half comeback and perhaps sensing the momentum building, the crowd of 52,147 chanted “MVP! MVP!” for Rodriguez as he stood at second after his big hit.
New York has won 17 of its last 22 home games.
Alex Rios had four hits, including a triple. He scored Toronto’s run on Troy Glaus’ two-out single in the first, but struck out against Rivera with runners at the corners to end the eighth.
New York shook loose after being stifled for six innings by Shaun Marcum (5-4), who went pitch-for-pitch with Clemens and had a chance to come out on top.
Marcum’s teammates provided little support, however. After stranding 12 runners each of the previous two nights, the Blue Jays left 13 on base this time – eight through the first six innings.
Mike Myers (1-0) retired Lyle Overbay on a grounder with the bases loaded to end the seventh, the biggest out he’s gotten in a while. It was the left-hander’s first win since Aug. 18 at Boston.
Clemens allowed a season-high nine hits, struck out three and walked one. He threw 63 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
After it took four Yankees relievers to get four outs, Rivera finished for his 15th save in 17 chances. He is perfect since blowing his first two opportunities this season.
With the Yankees trailing 1-0, Jeter lined a 3-2 pitch to right for a leadoff single in the seventh. On a perfectly executed hit-and-run, Abreu pulled a grounder through the right side for a single that snapped an 0-for-15 slide.
With runners at the corners, Rodriguez doubled over the head of left fielder Reed Johnson to drive in both runners and chase Marcum. Phillips made it 4-1 with a two-run single off Brandon League.
Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano added RBI singles in the eighth.
Helped by three double plays in the first four innings, Marcum yielded three runs and five hits over six-plus innings.
Notes: The Blue Jays are 1-4 the past four seasons when Rios has at least four hits. … Yankees designated hitter Hideki Matsui extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games.