Yankees take three of four from Blue Jays

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shawn Chacon was surrounded.

Everywhere the New York Yankees starter looked in the sixth inning on Thursday, there were Toronto runners. New York's two-run lead was hanging perilously in the balance, and on the Yankees bench, manager Joe Torre and his coaches considered their next move.

"I could have been persuaded to take him out," Torre admitted.

Instead, he stayed with the pitcher who was obtained last month from Colorado and plugged into a patchwork Yankees pitching staff.

Chacon paid back the confidence, retiring the next two hitters to preserve the lead in what became a 6-2 Yankees victory. Then he tacked on a 1-2-3 seventh before turning the game over the bullpen.

And he did it without his best stuff.

"It was one of those days," Chacon said. "The sixth inning was scary but we got through it. Today was a grind. I didn't feel I had anything as far as command of my pitches."

So he threw plenty of them -- 119 through seven innings, 66 for strikes.

"It's difficult trying to figure it out," he said. "I didn't have command of my sinker. My breaking ball was not there. I had to grind it out."

"Chacon battled," Torre said. "He didn't have his best command but he fought his way through. He's not afraid to throw off-speed stuff. He had pitched so well to their 3-4 hitters, I felt secure sending him out for the seventh.

"He has a great variety of speeds. As long as he threw strikes, we didn't worry about him being tired. He has the ability to throw strikes," he said.

Chacon improved to 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA with the Yankees after going 1-7 with a 4.09 ERA for Colorado. He has rescued a Yankees pitching staff torn apart by injury, winning three straight starts for the first time in more than two years.

"He's been pitching well," said Derek Jeter, who had three hits for the Yankees. "Today, he scuffled more than he has in the past. He battled us out of a couple of jams."

Jeter was part of a quick start for the Yankees, who used consecutive first-inning home runs by Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez for a 4-0 lead on just nine pitches by loser Gustavo Chacin (11-7).

Jeter singled on Chacin's second pitch, and Hideki Matsui hit the next pitch up the middle for a single. Sheffield followed with a three-run homer on an 0-1 pitch for his 27th homer of the season. The home run ended an 0-for-12 slide for Sheffield and was the 442nd of his career, tying him with Dave Kingman for 30th place.

Rodriguez followed with his 37th homer. It was his 22nd at Yankee Stadium this season, a record for a right-handed hitter. The old mark of 19 was set by Joe DiMaggio in 1937 and matched by Sheffield last season.

"I just missed my spots and left some pitches up in the zone," Chacin said. "I made mistakes and paid for it."

"I knew it was going to be a tough day when they scored those four in the first," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "When you come in this place, you know you're going to slug it out with them."

Toronto tried to battle back.

Corey Koskie opened the second with a double and came around on a pair of infield outs.

An inning later, the Blue Jays loaded the bases when Russ Adams
walked, Frank Catalanotto singled and Shea Hillenbrand was hit by a pitch. A four-pitch walk to Koskie forced home a run before Chacon struck out Gregg Zaun, ending the inning.

Toronto loaded the bases again in the sixth on a leadoff walk to Zaun and one-out singles by Eric Hinske and Orlando Hudson. Chacon then struck out Adams and retired Catalanotto on a fly ball. He
pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

"You've got a mess you made yourself," Chacon said. "You've got to work out of it."

Jorge Posada, who had three hits, opened the Yankees' sixth with a double, and two outs later he scored on Jeter's triple, his third hit of the game. Matsui then singled Jeter home, finishing Chacin.

Game notes
Matsui's first-inning single was the 500th hit of his major-league career. ... The home runs by Sheffield and Rodriguez marked the ninth time this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back homers. ... Chacin struck out the side in the third inning, getting
Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams on called third strikes. ... Attendance was 54,329, the 35th sellout of the season at Yankee Stadium.