NEW YORK -- He had waited 73 at-bats for this. Seventy three at-bats where some ball he hit either died in someone's glove, or lost steam on the warning track, or went screaming out of the park far enough and high enough, only to curl foul.
Now, Yankees catcher Brian McCann raced around the bases looking like a man happy as hell to just have finally hit his first home run in nearly a month -- let alone a two-run shot that held up as the game-winner even after he added a three-run triple in the seventh, turning Wednesday's win against division rival Toronto from a nailbiter into a 7-3 rout.
McCann, one of the Yankees' big-ticket offseason signings, didn't downplay his breakout night afterward. He is still hitting only .226, after all. And he said that even more than his home run drought, what really weighed on his mind in his first season since coming to New York from Atlanta "was just the fact that I wasn't really contributing [offensively].
"About time I pitched in," McCann said.
Of all the things the Yankees are accustomed to -- and that includes beating Toronto starting pitcher Mark Buehrle year after year no matter what kind of season he's having everywhere else, or the sight of themselves sitting in first place in the American League East rather than the Blue Jays -- McCann's go-ahead homer at Yankee Stadium in the fourth inning was the most striking reminder of what the Blue Jays have become. And what McCann and the Yankees' offense so far are not.
"Remember when people used to say we relied too much on the home run?" Yanks general manager Brian Cashman told someone the other day.
The contrast between then and now is impossible to forget. McCann's five-RBI night -- the most RBIs by a Yankees catcher since Elston Howard in 1962 -- was a long time coming for him, personally. It was also a vivid reminder of just how far from a bombs-away style the Yanks have drifted this season, despite spending more than $300 million on hitting over the winter to construct a team that, on paper anyway, looks perfectly designed to take advantage of the Stadium's short right-field porch.
But the baseball season is hurtling toward July, and it's as if the Blue Jays have stolen the Yankees' traditional winning formula to ride to the top of the AL East.
They rolled into town boasting five hitters in Wednesday's starting lineup with double-figure home runs. And the Yankees have just one: Mark Teixeira (11). Not McCann (8). Not Ellsbury (4), not Alfonso Soriano (6), nor Beltran (6), who at least has the excuse of missing time with a bone chip in his elbow.
This series has so far been a throwback to how everything seems to come easier when the ball flies over the fence. The Yankees haven't been a great team at home (just 15-16), because to win at the Stadium, it usually takes scoring a lot of runs.
But in the last two nights against the Blue Jays -- the start of a 15-game stretch of divisional games for the Yanks, with 12 of them at home -- they've chopped two games off the 4 1/2-game lead Toronto pulled into town with. They did it by riding a homer by Brett Gardner Tuesday, and McCann's outburst against Buehrle, who dropped to 1-11 lifetime against the Yanks (including 0-5 at The Stadium), even though he began the night 10-3 with a 2.28 ERA this season against everyone else.
Rookie starter Chase Whitley went five innings for the Yanks to improve his record to 3-0 overall.
"It's big," Yanks manager Joe Girardi admitted. "I mean, this is the team we're chasing."
McCann's 348-foot homer to right wouldn't have been out of any other ballpark in the major leagues, according to ESPN Stats and Info. But had someone bothered to tell him that after the game, he surely wouldn't have cared.
The Yankees (37-33) have now won six of their last eight. Even with starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda injured and out indefinitely, and Cashman admitting to MLB.com Wednesday that he fully intend, rather than just hopes, to do something in the midseason trade market, the Yanks offense finally shows signs of warming up.
Teixeira smoked a few balls Wednesday night, even though he had only one hit to show for it. Gardner went 4-for-5. Derek Jeter has raised his average more than 20 points in the last two weeks to .273. And McCann, who denied after the game that he has been pressing since coming from Atlanta to New York, did finally loosen up a little when asked what he thought as he saw Jays center-fielder Colby Rasmus race toward the right-field gap and then dive to try to rob him of his bases-loaded triple in the seventh, when the Yanks clung to only a 3-2 lead.
"I thought, 'Please don't catch it,'" McCann laughed.
Rasmus didn't. The hit rolled to the warning track and broke the game open. And McCann broke his power drought.
"We really believe in [McCann] as an offensive force," Girardi said. "We're going to see more of that."
If the Yanks do -- if they keep getting more of everything that they've gotten the past two nights from everyone, not just 11-1 rookie Masahiro Tanaka -- there could be a power shift back their way in the AL East. They know it. And now the Jays know it, too.