Ibanez's eighth-inning slam sends Yanks past Jays

Ibanez's eighth-inning slam sends Yanks past Jays

Ibanez's eighth-inning slam sends Yanks past Jays
NEW YORK -- If the Yankees have learned anything from Raul Ibanez's first season in pinstripes, it's that he seems to have a knack for coming up with hits in big spots. Those hits also tend to travel a long, long way.

Ibanez crushed an eighth-inning grand slam off Jason Frasor on Monday at Yankee Stadium, powering the Yankees to a 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays for their seventh win in the last nine games.

"It's definitely a situation you want to hit in," Ibanez said. "That's what you want as a hitter. You play the game to get into situations like that. When you're in the backyard as a kid, you're in the backyard thinking, 'Bases loaded, two outs.'"

That was precisely where Ibanez found himself, digging in on a muggy evening in the Bronx. He broke open a tight pitchers' duel by unloading on Frasor's 3-1 fastball, sending a no-doubt drive into the second deck in right field.

"He was supposed to pop that up," Frasor said. "It wasn't my night. It was a struggle from pitch No. 1. What can I say? I had to come to him, and he got it."

The blast was Ibanez's 10th career slam and his first as a Yankee. He was sent up at the right time; five of Ibanez's 12 homers have given the Yankees the lead, with eight coming in the sixth inning or later.

"We expected him to play well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've always liked him as a hitter. We talked about what a great clubhouse guy he is. He's done a great job for us in left field, but he's come up with some huge hits for us."

Rafael Soriano closed out the ninth inning for his 23rd save in 24 chances, preserving the win for David Robertson, who pitched a scoreless eighth to follow Phil Hughes' strong seven-inning no-decision.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth as Aaron Loup allowed hits to Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano before Frasor entered. Ibanez said long at-bats by Mark Teixeira (five, hit-by-pitch) and Nick Swisher (eight, strikeout) helped him get a feel for Frasor.

"I think it is a deep lineup, for sure," Ibanez said. "It's a lineup that when we do what we're capable of doing, grinding out at-bats, guys see a lot of pitches and battle and fight. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team's pitcher."

Hughes had to contend with Toronto's potent offense, but passed the test, limiting Jose Bautista and company to two runs on four hits over seven innings before Bautista was removed from the game in the eighth with a left wrist injury.

"It was a battle today," Hughes said. "I had a good fastball, but I was constantly behind in counts and trying to battle back into counts. It was tough. It was a grind, but I hung in there and just tried to keep it close. Unfortunately I gave up a lead, but the other guys battled back and got a win out of it."

Adam Lind connected for a fourth-inning solo homer, his eighth, and Edwin Encarnacion laced a run-scoring double off the left-center-field wall in the sixth inning to account for the production against Hughes.

The right-hander walked three and struck out four as he turned in his first start following the All-Star break. In his last six starts at home since May 22, Hughes is 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA.

"I just loved the way he competed," Girardi said. "He used his fastball, his curveball and his changeup pretty effectively. He stayed away from big innings. He got big outs when he needed to. You look at him getting through that seventh inning, and that was real important for us."

The Blue Jays squeezed a solid six-inning effort from starter Henderson Alvarez, who struck out a season-high six batters and held the Yankees to two runs and five hits.

Russell Martin got New York's offense started in the second inning with a line-drive home run to right field, Martin's ninth of the season, snapping a 66 at-bat homerless streak for the catcher. The Yankees have homered in 12 straight home games.

"It was a sinker away, and he probably left it up a little bit," Martin said. "It didn't have quite as much action. That short porch over there has been nice to me this year."

Rodriguez and Cano bashed back-to-back doubles off Alvarez in the third, bringing around the second run. Cano's hit sailed past the dive of right fielder Bautista, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games.

Ibanez said that the showing was just another example of the ongoing group effort, which has the veteran believing something special is brewing in the Bronx.

"It's a real team," Ibanez said. "It's a team of 25 guys coming together and trying to win games. There's great players in here, but they're also great people. They're all team players and gamers."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.