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Hafner's big game leads Yankees to third straight win over Blue Jays

CC goes eight in the win; Joba picks up first save since 2010
04/27/2013 10:02 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Travis Hafner had a rare appearance against left-handed pitchers and drove in four RBIs in the Yankees' victory at home on Saturday.(AP)
It wasn't pretty, but the New York Yankees just continue to roll. The Yankees, now 14-9, have taken the first three games of this series against the Blue Jays and have a chance for the four-game sweep on Sunday.

“We've been resilient, there's no doubt about it,” Joe Girardi said after the Yankees victory.

CC Sabathia did not have his best stuff right out of the gate on Saturday. The Yankees ace started the game off with two bang-bang innings, but Sabathia's stuff looked flat and the Jays flew out on three hard hit balls in the second frame.

Things got rocky for Sabathia in the third, as he allowed one run in the third on two hits. In the fourth, Jose Bautista, who was 1-for-20 against Sabathia, crushed the first pitch for a long home run to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.

Sabathia’s struggles continued in the fourth. He allowed a single to Edwin Encarnacion and then threw a passed ball in Brett Lawrie's at-bat. Sabathia got Lawrie to fly out to right, scoring Encarnacion, who was dead at the plate on the perfect throw by Ichiro, but Chris Stewart dropped the ball.

The Yankees were down 3-0, but Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ started to walk the ballpark in the bottom of the fourth inning. After walking the first two batters, the southpaw faced the lefty Travis Hafner, who had been sitting against lefties all season. With Ben Francisco struggling, Joe Girardi rolled the dice and gave Hafner the opportunity to face off against a left-handed starter, and the gamble paid off. Hafner tied the game at three with one swing of the bat.

“I thought it was time to give (Hafner) a shot at it today, and I won't do it every time because I think for him he's had some injury problems,” Girardi said. “Off days don't necessarily hurt him and I have to be careful, but I just thought today was a good day to do it and he made it work.”

Sabathia still couldn't find a rhythm after the offense stepped up. He gave the lead back to Toronto in the sixth inning when Lawrie smacked a lead-off home run. It seemed inevitable that Sabathia wouldn't be able to go much farther into the game. Saturday’s game marked the first time since May 8 and May 13, 2010 that Sabathia gave up multiple home runs in back-to-back games.

But Sabathia settled down after the Lawrie homer and his stuff began to click. His fastball had extra velocity, his breaking stuff started to move, and Sabathia retired the last nine batters he faced.

“When you look at the four runs he gave up,” Girardi said of Sabathia. “He gave up three in the middle innings and then he gave up one after that. We needed a big performance out of CC, we needed distance out of him, and we got it.”

Even on a day he had nothing, Sabathia stepped up and gave the Yankees bullpen much needed rest.

“I think it's always important for me to go deep into the game,” Sabathia said. “We've got some guys, we had Nova go down yesterday and Phelps had to step up, so it worked out that we were able to get eight tonight and save some of those guys arms.”

The Yankees offense rewarded him in the seventh with timely hitting and heads-up baseball. Cano doubled to right and then Vernon Wells continued to punish his former team this season collecting his 11th hit in 25 at-bats and his sixth RBI against them to tie the game at four.

With two outs in the inning, Wells stole third base during Hafner's at-bat. This opened up several different options for the Yankees.

“If you can get to third base in a situation like that then a lot of different things come into play,” Wells said. “He can no longer bounce breaking balls, things like that. (Hafner) got one up and took advantage. Just little things that you've got try and take advantage of.”

Hafner took Brett Cecil's flat offering and stroked just his 13th career triple to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish. Once again Hafner came up big against a southpaw.

When asked how he felt getting to third base after his rare triple, Hafner said, “Probably tired…It was fun to come up with the hit there in that situation to put us ahead.”

With Francisco struggling, Hafner could now play more against lefties after Saturday’s success, but Girardi did not say Hafner would face lefties on a consistent basis.

“When you have some guys that have some age and some history of health problems, then you have to manage that and you pick your days,” Girardi said. “Today I put him in against a lefthander and he was great.”

Sabathia left after eight innings and turned the game over to Joba Chamberlain, who was given the opportunity to close the game with David Robertson and Mariano Rivera unavailable. Chamberlain made it interesting, but he ultimately nailed down his first save since Sept.r 21, 2010 and preserved the Yankees 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

“There's nobody behind me,” Chamberlain said of his save opportunity. “That's fun for me. Seeing the energy of the crowd and my teammates and knowing that this is the last go at it and I love that. That's something that I play for; the energy. I can't help but smile because that's why you play the game and I'm excited to get that opportunity.”

It wasn't pretty, but this team continues to win in so many ways despite fighting through multiple injuries and criticism from everyone coming into the season.

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