With just over a month left in what has been a very disappointing season, the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping to take small steps now with an eye on spring training and the 2014 campaign.
Toronto bounced back from an awful road trip with a solid 5-2 victory over New York on Monday night in the opener of a six-game homestand. R.A. Dickey allowed one earned run over 6 1/3 innings to help the Blue Jays beat the Yankees for the first time in 11 games.
"The real tragedy in the season will be if there's no growth out of what's happened," Dickey said. "So we're in a place where we're probably evaluating some things, seeing what we can do better and how we can perform better next year and what pieces to the puzzle are going to fit.
"If we're able to do that, then we're able to take a step forward if nothing else from a year that has not gone as expected for anybody. So again, the real tragedy is if there's no growth out of this but I think that we're headed in the right direction as far as that's concerned."
Edwin Encarnacion drove in two runs and Jose Reyes scored twice for the Blue Jays (59-73), who have spent most of the year in last place in the A.L. East. The bullpen did its job as Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen — with his 24th save — kept New York off the scoresheet once Dickey left the mound.
"Everything fell in line tonight but the key was (it was a) close ballgame, we plated some runs, gave us a little breathing room," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "That's what we haven't been able to do the last couple of weeks."
Toronto was 2-8 on its recent road swing and needed a quality start from Dickey (10-12), who delivered a steady performance on a hot, humid evening at Rogers Centre. His knuckleball was effective as he struck out six, walked three and allowed six hits.
"He's on a nice little roll," Gibbons said. "He's pitching pretty good. He's got to feel good."
Dickey's lone earned run came when Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez turned on a pitch in the fifth inning for a solo shot that tied the game. It was his third homer of the season and 650th of his career.
The Blue Jays came back with three runs in the bottom half of the frame. They took advantage of a rare error from right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who misplayed a drive from Encarnacion near the warning track.
"If I could have just gone straight home from right field, I would have," Ichiro said. "I was that embarrassed."
Reyes scored on the error and Adam Lind followed by lashing another ball into right field to push Ryan Goins across. After an intentional walk to Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., Moises Sierra hit a sacrifice fly that scored Encarnacion.
That was it for New York starter Phil Hughes (4-13), who allowed three earned runs and seven hits. He was replaced by southpaw David Huff, who struck out Josh Thole for the third out.
Aaron Loup replaced Dickey in the seventh inning and struck out former Blue Jay Vernon Wells and Derek Jeter. Sergio Santos came in with two outs in the eighth inning and struck out Rodriguez.
"From now on every game is going to be important for us," Reyes said. "We just need to finish this (season) strong so that we go to spring training with a better feeling. Like I said, every win from now on is going to be huge."
The Yankees (69-62), who are fourth in the East but entered play just 3 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot, opened the scoring in the first inning.
Leadoff man Brett Gardner worked a full count off Dickey before singling up the middle. Gardner moved to second on a Thole passed ball and advanced to third on a Jeter groundout.
Robinson Cano followed with a tough chopper that deflected off Dickey's glove to Reyes at shortstop. The only play was to first base, allowing Gardner to score.
Toronto tied it in the second inning when Kevin Pillar hit a flare to centre field that scored Lawrie from third base. The Blue Jays took the lead an inning later when Encarnacion drove in Reyes with a single to left field.
After the Rodriguez homer, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs but Dickey got out of the jam when Cano flew out to centre field.
Both teams had seven hits. Announced attendance was 35,241 and the game took two hours 33 minutes to play.
Notes: Rodriguez, who is appealing a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball, was booed before every at-bat. ... There were some cheers for his teammate Jeter, who was activated off the disabled list before the game. Jeter started at shortstop and went 0 for 3 with a walk. ... The Yankees fell to 31-35 on the road this season. ... Dickey has 15 quality starts this season. ... Lawrie has hit safely in 25 of his last 28 games. ... Loup was activated from the paternity list earlier in the day and right-hander Chien-Ming Wang was designated for assignment. ... The roof was opened about 30 minutes before game time. ... Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson threw the ceremonial first pitch. ... J.A. Happ (3-3) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday evening against Andy Pettitte (9-9).