TORONTO (AP) — A no-decision left no doubt that Henderson Alvarez has a bright future with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Eduardo Nunez drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly and the New York Yankees overcame a four-run deficit to beat Toronto Blue Jays 9-6 on Sunday to remain tied with Baltimore atop the AL East and clinch their 17th playoff berth in 18 years.
Alvarez closed out his second major league season, and his first full campaign, by allowing two runs and seven hits in six efficient innings, avoiding his third straight defeat.
The 22-year-old Venezuelan, who walked none and struck out four, finished 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA.
“He goes into the offseason, I would think, with a lot of confidence about the way he’s pitched late in the season,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Speaking through a translator, Alvarez called 2012 “a great year of experience” but acknowledged he needs to add a slider to his arsenal to find success as a starter.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to play winter ball or not but if I am I’m going to work on (the slider),” he said. “If I have three pitches and can continue to keep the ball down like I did at the end of the season, it’s going to be better.”
New York was down 5-1 going into the sixth.
“Tonight was a season-defining game for us,” New York’s Nick Swisher said.
Eric Chavez homered for the Yankees (92-67), who completed a 4-3 trip and headed home for a season-closing series against Boston. The Orioles (92-67) beat the Red Sox 6-3 and traveled to Florida for their final series, at Tampa Bay.
“Every game feels like it’s a playoff game right now,” Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. “That’s our attitude.”
New York has overcome four-run deficits to win twice in a nine-game span for the second time this season, according to STATS LLC.
With both the division title and the AL’s best record still up for grabs, the Yankees aren’t relishing the prospect of playing the last-place Red Sox, who have lost 90 games for the first time since 1966.
“They would like nothing better than to spoil our season,” Martin said. “Us knowing that, I don’t think anybody is going to take them lightly.”
A wild-card berth and the one-game playoff that comes with it isn’t to New York’s liking. The Yankees opened a 10-game AL East lead in mid-July and have never failed to finish first in a season in which they led by at least 6½ games.
Toronto took a 5-1 lead in the fifth against Phil Hughes, but the Yankees closed in the sixth on a run-scoring wild pitch by Alvarez and tied it an inning later on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice fly, Robinson Cano’s RBI double against Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup’s run-scoring wild pitch.
“It seemed liked we just kept at it, kept at it, kept picking away,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Darren Oliver (3-4) walked Curtis Granderson leading off the seventh, Raul Ibanez singled, Martin sacrificed and Nunez drove in the go-ahead run. Derek Jeter’s RBI single put the Yankees ahead 7-5.
Granderson added a two-run single in the ninth off Jason Frasor, reaching 100 RBIs for the second straight year despite a .226 batting average.
Boone Logan (7-2) got the final two outs of the seventh as the Yankees avoided consecutive defeats for the first time since a three-game skid from Sept. 2-4. Rafael Soriano allowed Toronto to load the bases with no outs in the ninth before Yunel Escobar hit into a run-scoring, double-play grounder and Adam Lind grounded out.
Hughes gave up five runs, eight hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings. He allowed his 35th home run, trailing only Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels.
Toronto went ahead in the first on Escobar’s RBI double and Lind’s sacrifice fly. Chavez hit his 16th home run in the third, connecting off Brett Cecil, but the Blue Jays scored three times in the bottom half on Brett Lawrie’s two-run homer, a second-deck drive to left, and Moises Sierra’s RBI single.
NOTES: New York 1B Mark Teixeira is expected to rejoin the Yankees on Monday to play against Boston. Teixeira has played just one game since Aug. 27 because of a strained left calf. … Baltimore’s win clinched home field for the Orioles if there is a one-game tiebreaker game to decide the AL East. … Alex Rodriguez has failed to drive in a run in 11 straight games for the first time since May 27-July 7, 2005, according to STATS LLC. He is hitting .250 with two doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs in 100 at-bats since returning from the DL on Sept. 3. … Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion left in the seventh with muscle tightness in his left shoulder and neck. Colby Rasmus pinch hit for Encarnacion and struck out. … Suzuki retired Encarnacion with a running catch in the right field corner to begin the third, a play Girardi called “tremendous.” … Yankees INF Jayson Nix is expected to miss 10 to 14 days with a strained left hip.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.