The Associated Press
Hideki Matsui broke out of a long slump and Phil Hughes picked up his first victory at Yankee Stadium, helping New York win again. But the suddenly surging wild-card leaders also owe a big thanks to the Big Hurt.
Frank Thomas homered three times and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Boston Red Sox 6-1 on Monday night, allowing the Yankees to cut the AL East lead to 3 1/2 games. New York beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-5.
It's the closest the Yankees have been since before play on April 11.
``We've come too far and worked too hard to start counting your chips,'' said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose club also opened its wild-card lead to 3 1/2 games over the Detroit Tigers.
Hughes got help from a bullpen that escaped two bases-loaded jams, and Doug Mientkiewicz, Jorge Posada and Bobby Abreu provided the offense and the Yankees waited out an inconsistent Daniel Cabrera (9-17).
Hughes (4-3) allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking two.
``You see the confidence growing,'' Mientkiewicz said.
Cabrera hit consecutive batters with pitches in the second, loading the bases before a two-run single by Mientkiewicz tied it at 2.
Back in the lineup after a night off Sunday at Boston, Matsui gave the Yankees the lead with a solo shot in the third - his first homer in 123 at-bats since Aug. 8 at Toronto off Roy Halladay. Matsui began the day in a 5-for-43 (.116) skid.
``The result was a home run, but the swing itself really felt good. I put a good swing on it, hit the ball hard. I hadn't done that in a while,'' Matsui said through a translator.
In other AL games, it was Cleveland 6, Detroit 5 in 11 innings; Seattle 4, Oakland 0; Los Angeles 10, Tampa Bay 7; Minnesota 5, Texas 4 and Chicago 11, Kansas City 3.
Thomas homered twice off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, then hit his third against reliever Kyle Snyder. Thomas had three homers one other time - hitting all of them off Wakefield at Fenway Park on Sept. 15, 1996.
``I remember it like it was yesterday,'' said Wakefield (16-11). ``There's a reason he's got 512 homers. If you make mistakes to him, they leave the yard pretty quick.''
Thomas, a career .250 hitter against Wakefield, moved into a tie with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 18th on the career home run list.
``I've had my good days against him but over the whole haul, he's had the best of me,'' Thomas said. ``Today a couple flattened out. That happens with knuckleball pitchers sometimes.''
Dustin McGowan (11-9) pitched a five-hitter, struck out nine and walked none. It was his second complete game in 35 major league starts - he threw a one-hitter against Colorado on June 24, allowing Jeff Baker's leadoff single in the ninth.
``Dustin was tremendous today,'' Thomas said. ``When he's prepared mentally, he's as good as any starter in baseball. I know that's a bold statement, but it is true. His stuff can totally dominate a team. When he's on, he's on. I don't care how good the hitters are.''
Wakefield allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings with two walks and two strikeouts. He is 0-1 in three starts since missing a turn on Aug. 31 because of a sore lower back.
``I felt like I had good stuff,'' Wakefield said. ``I'd like to have just two pitches back, and both of them were to Frank.''
Already without Manny Ramirez (strained left oblique) and Kevin Youkilis (sore right wrist), Boston manager Terry Francona said David Ortiz has a sore knee and center fielder Coco Crisp has a stiff back.
``We're going to have to fight through here for a few days,'' Francona said.
Indians 6, Tigers 5, 11 innings
At Cleveland, Casey Blake homered with one out in the 11th inning to give the Indians a come-from-behind win over the Tigers, who slid 5 1/2 games back in the AL Central.
Blake turned on a pitch from Zach Miner (3-4) and drove it into the left-field bleachers for his second game-ending homer in four days, a shot that cut the Indians' magic number to seven.
Rafael Betancourt (5-1) struck out four in two scoreless innings for the win.
Mariners 4, Athletics 0
At Oakland, Calif., Jose Lopez hit a three-run homer and Miguel Batista outpitched All-Star Dan Haren (14-8) to end a five-start winless skid.
Ryan Rowland-Smith got five outs and Brandon Morrow finished the seven-hitter for Seattle's 11th shutout of the season. It marked the ninth time the A's were blanked.
Batista (14-11) allowed five hits and struck out six in 6 1-3 scoreless innings.
Angels 10, Devil Rays 7
At Anaheim, Calif., Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman each had three hits and two RBIs, and the Angels lowered their magic number for clinching the AL West to five.
Darren Oliver (3-0) allowed two hits in 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the Angels.
Edwin Jackson (4-15) lost his third straight decision, allowing seven runs - four earned - and 14 hits over 4 2-3 innings.
Twins 5, Rangers 4
At Minneapolis, Ian Kinsler misplayed Jason Bartlett's popup with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing Lew Ford to score the winning run.
Michael Cuddyer homered off Joaquin Benoit (7-4) to tie the game in the ninth after Travis Metcalf homered off Joe Nathan (3-3) in the top of the inning to give Texas a 4-3 lead.
White Sox 11, Royals 3
At Kansas City, Mo., Jermaine Dye, Danny Richar and Josh Fields homered in an 11-run fifth inning, most of the damage coming off Royals starter Kyle Davies (2-6).
Javier Vazquez (13-8) worked eight innings and struck out a season-high 13 for the win.
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