for this game

Blue Jays edge Yankees to keep alive second-place hopes

Sep 30, 2006 - 11:24 PM BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Although the Toronto Blue Jays have struggled at Yankee Stadium, they do not appear to be giving up on a second-place finish in the American League East Division.

Alex Rios hit a two-out, two-run triple in the seventh inning as the Blue Jays used a four-run rally to end a six-game losing streak in New York with a 6-5 victory over the Yankees.

The Blue Jays have not finished above third place in the AL East since 1993, when they won their second consecutive World Series title. Since beating New York by seven games 13 years ago, Toronto has produced third-place finishes in seven of the last eight seasons.

But the Blue Jays (86-75) have won 17 of 27 games in September and enter the final day of the season one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox for second in the division. Boston dropped a 5-4 decision to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

"We're not going to the playoffs, but it gives us something to play for," Toronto infielder John McDonald said. "It gives us motivation when you look at the way we have played in the last couple of weeks. It reflects the character in (the clubhouse)."

Toronto has won more than 85 games for the first time since 2003. If it can close out the season Sunday with a win, it will finish with its best record since going 88-74 in 1998.

"Hopefully next year it will mean something," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But these guys played all out every night. It's a 162-game season, and 161 of them we played hard."

Silenced for six innings by rookie Jeff Karstens, the Blue Jays drew within 4-2 in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Hill.

Toronto appeared to have its comeback halted when pinch hitter Gregg Zaun apparently grounded out. But first baseman Andy Phillips failed to step on the bag and was charged with an error, allowing pinch runner Kevin Barker to score.

That spelled the end of the afternoon for Karstens, who was replaced by Mike Myers (1-2). Pinch hitter McDonald greeted the lefthander with an RBI single to right field, and rookie T.J. Beam came on and watched his 3-2 offering to Rios go for a two-run triple that put Toronto ahead, 5-4.

The three-base hit gave Rios a .333 average (22-for-66) and 15 RBI this month.

"It's good," Rios said. "You got to leave a good impression of yourself. I just have been working a little bit harder."

"He's a pretty dangerous guy because he can run, he can hit the balls in the gaps," Gibbons said. "He's a tough guy to defend. He's had a tremendous year."

The Blue Jays added a run in the eighth on Lyle Overbay's RBI groundout. That proved to be the winning run as Justin Speier allowed an RBI single by Bobby Abreu in the bottom of the inning.

Jason Frasor (3-2) allowed a hit in 1 2/3 frames for the victory. Scott Downs recorded the final out of the seventh and Speier gave up two hits in the eighth but escaped unscathed by striking out Aaron Guiel.

Closer B.J. Ryan struck out two in the ninth for his 38th save in 42 opportunities. He tied Kelvim Escobar for the second-most saves in a season in franchise history. Duane Ward set the mark with 45 in 1993.

Karstens retired the first 12 hitters he faced before Overbay opened the fifth with his 22nd home run. He allowed just two more hits before encountering trouble in the seventh.

In his sixth career start, the 24-year-old righthander allowed four runs - two earned - and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The Yankees took a 3-0 lead as Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth. After Overbay's blast, the Yankees added a run in their half of the fifth on Miguel Cairo's RBI double.

But with New York's focus on Game One of the AL Division Series next week, regulars Sheffield, Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui were pulled after the fourth inning.

"There's plenty of work ahead," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We're just trying to get everybody enough work to get ready for Tuesday."

Derek Jeter went 3-for-3, raising his average to .345. He trails Minnesota's Joe Mauer in the AL batting race by just one point.

"It's not like I'm in a home-run race when I'm trying to hit a home run," Jeter said. "I've been in this position before. You don't try and do anything different. You just try and have good at-bats. The biggest thing is, you want to feel good going into the playoffs."

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