NEW YORK – Derek Jeter stood on the dugout steps, stone-faced as a statue, when Ichiro Suzuki approached after rounding with the bases with his first home run since last August.
Only when the Japanese star was inches away did the New York Yankees captain crack a wide smile and offer a fist bump.
Ichiro hit a go-ahead, three-run drive in the third inning against Mark Buehrle, and the Yankees overcame an early deficit to beat the Blue Jays 6-4 Friday night for their 17th straight home win against Toronto.
“I was kind of expecting that,” Ichiro said through a translator, referring to Jeter’s reaction. “During batting practice, he always tells me, ‘Can’t leave,’ which means the ball doesn’t leave the ballpark.”
This time, Jeter altered his comment slightly — or so Ichiro thought.
“I think he said, ‘Can leave,’ ” Suzuki said before laughing.
After months of injuries and mediocre play, the Yankees find themselves back in playoff position and in a much better frame of mind. New York won for the seventh time in eight games since the All-Star break and moved one game in front of the third-place Blue Jays in the AL East.
“It’s better than the alternative, but it really doesn’t mean a whole lot with 60 games to go,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Hiroki Kuroda (7-6) shrugged off a shaky start and allowed four runs and eight hits in 5⅔ innings. David Robertson pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances, completing the bullpen’s two-hit, scoreless night.
“With the stuff I had, I was struggling all day. But at the same time, I tried to hang in there,” Kuroda said through a translator.
Carlos Beltran’s solo drive and Ichiro’s first home run since Aug. 30 off Baltimore’s Miguel Gonzalez put the Yankees ahead. The homerless streak of 294 at-bats was the third-longest of Ichiro’s major league career. The 40-year-old entered in a 6-for-41 (.146) slide overall but is hitting .431 in his career against Buehrle (25 for 58).
Ichiro was happy to have any kind of positive number in his home run column.
“Now that’s it’s not a 0, maybe Michael Kay will be easy on me,” he said playfully, referring to a Yankees broadcaster.
Munenori Kawasaki was 1-for-3 for Toronto in the loss.
Rays 6, Red Sox 4
In St. Petersburg, Florida, David Price won his sixth start in a row, Evan Longoria hit a three-run double and Tampa Bay earned its eighth straight victory.
The Red Sox lost their fourth consecutive game.
Orioles 2, Mariners 1 (10)
In Seattle, Chris Davis hit a leadoff homer in the 10th inning, Nelson Cruz also went deep and Baltimore overcame a record-tying start by Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez struck out 10 in seven innings and left with the score tied 1-all. It was his 13th consecutive start with at least seven innings and no more than two runs allowed, matching Tom Seaver’s major league mark set for the New York Mets in 1971.
Angels 2, Tigers 1
In Anaheim, Efren Navarro and Kole Calhoun drove in runs in the sixth inning, and Los Angeles overcame Drew Smyly’s early dominance.
Tyler Skaggs yielded five hits in 5⅔ resourceful innings for the Angels, who have won 14 of 19.
White Sox 9, Twins 5
In Minneapolis, Jose Abreu hit his major league-leading 30th homer and drove in three runs, leading Chicago to a victory over the Twins.
Rangers 4, Athletics 1
In Arlington, Texas, Jerome Williams pitched six solid innings while becoming the team-record 31st pitcher used this season by the Rangers, and they beat AL West-leading Oakland.
Royals 6, Indians 4
In Kansas City, pinch hitter Billy Butler hit a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning help give the Royals a victory.
Norichika Aoki was hitless in four at-bats.
Marlins 2, Astros 0
In Houston, Brad Hand pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning.