Published April 30, 2011
NEW YORK – Mike McCoy understands that his fielding got him to the major leagues, and the spectacular catch he made against the New York Yankees on Saturday will almost certainly end up on every highlight reel through the weekend.
It wasn't the highlight for him, though.
The Toronto second baseman also hit his first career homer, a solo shot to left, providing the Blue Jays' two biggest bright spots in a 5-4 loss in the Bronx.
"I take a lot of pride on my defense," McCoy said, "but you can't give back the homer."
Eric Chavez drove in a run and broke up a potential double play that helped lead to three more, Derek Jeter hit a sacrifice fly, and Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner also drove in runs for the Yankees, who played small ball to perfection against Toronto.
A.J. Burnett (4-1) scrapped his way through six innings for New York, despite giving up nine hits and having to wiggle his way out of a jam in just about every one of them.
The right-hander struck out Edwin Encarnacion and McCoy to strand runners in scoring position in the first inning, picked off Rajai Davis on first base in the fifth, and watched as Martin threw out Juan Rivera trying to steal third base to end the sixth inning.
The bullpen went the rest of the way, with Mariano Rivera picking up his ninth save.
"Guys played hard. We didn't take anything for granted," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We did a lot of nice little things, and that's why we won."
The Blue Jays did quite a few little things, too.
McCoy in particular.
His first home run helped the Blue Jays rally in the fifth inning, and his spectacular catch kept them within reach in the seventh.
Robinson Cano was on first base when Nick Swisher lifted a little popup into shallow right field. McCoy did his best Fred Astaire impersonation — dancing and twirling onto the grass — and made an over-the-shoulder basket grab. He then spun around and threw to first base, doubling off Cano before he could even think about retreating.
"Outstanding play, over-the-shoulder catch running away from the play. The baserunner read it, thought it was going to drop in, he turns it into a double play," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "It was somewhat of a momentum shift, even late in the game."
Chavez started at third base in place of Alex Rodriguez, who got the day off, and drove in a run off Kyle Drabek (2-1) with a single in the third inning.
But it was Chavez's seemingly innocuous baserunning play the previous inning that gave the Yankees their biggest lift — and ultimately a lead they would never relinquish.
Swisher led off the second with a bloop single to left, and Chavez drew a walk before Jorge Posada grounded to second base. Chavez made a nice slide that prevented Toronto from turning the double play, and Martin followed moments later with a tying RBI single.
Gardner then walked to load the bases for Jeter, whose sacrifice fly gave New York the lead on what should have been the final out of the inning. Granderson then lined a base hit on an 0-2 pitch from Drabek, scoring Martin and giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
Lind got Toronto within a run with his sacrifice fly in the third, but Chavez and Gardner drove in a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it 5-2.
Drabek wound up making a forgettable debut in the Bronx, where his father, Doug, played his rookie season for the Yankees in 1986 — just across the street at the old ballpark. The 23-year-old allowed five runs and seven hits with four walks in 2 1-3 innings.
"It was just an all-around bad game," Drabek said. "They were hitting all of the mistakes."
The Blue Jays bullpen kept them in the game, allowing only two baserunners — both erased on double plays — and no hits over 5 2-3 innings.
The Yankees bullpen was just as good, though.
NOTES: Farrell said Encarnacion (sore left wrist) has experienced no lingering effect from his injury since returning to the lineup earlier this week. ... Yankees RHP Carlos Silva threw three scoreless innings in his first extended spring start Saturday. RHP Luis Ayala (strained back muscle) pitched 1 1-3 innings in the same game.