NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki always goes up to the plate believing he is going to get a hit. It does not always translate, but during a brilliant doubleheader performance Wednesday, the New York Yankees outfielder seemed to be able to get hits on demand.
Ichiro capped a four-hit night with a tiebreaking single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Yankees completed a day-night doubleheader sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-1 victory.
"The results were different today, and I'm not quite sure what the difference was, but I did go up there with the mindset that I was going to get a hit," Ichiro said through an interpreter.
Ichiro went 7-for-8 in the doubleheader and became the first Yankee to have four hits and four stolen bases in the same game since Rickey Henderson in 1988 at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium. He also made a key defensive play in the eighth inning of the first game. The seven hits raised Ichiro's batting average with the Yankees from .288 to .317.
"I don't know if you ever imagine a guy going 7-for-8 in a day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We knew he could get huge hits for us. We knew he could do a lot of different things for us. He's just a heads-up player, and you saw a lot of it today."
Ichiro became the seventh Yankee to record at least three hits in both games of a doubleheader, and his big night gave the Yankees four straight wins for the first time for the first time since Aug. 8-11. His biggest hit occurred when he lined a 1-1 fastball from reliever Aaron Loup into left field scoring Curtis Granderson with the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning.
"That's tough to do, man, a doubleheader, I don't think I've ever done that in a doubleheader," Yankee captain Derek Jeter said. "I've been on the other side, 0-for-8, but Ich, he did what he always does. He's a tough at-bat. He puts the ball in play. He gets on the bases and makes things happen. But that was a much-needed day from him and for us."
Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said, "I feel like he's getting hot again. You saw today when he gets rolling, it's really hard to stop him. It feels like he's hitting the ball everywhere, down the left field line, the right field line, left-center, right-center. He's just doing a great job. I'm glad we picked him up."
Granderson set up the winning run by singling off Steve Delabar (4-3). He moved to second on a sacrifice by Jayson Nix and stole his first base since July 25 during an at-bat by pinch hitter Steve Pearce.
Ichiro's first four-hit game as a Yankee and third of the season came on a night when the offense did little against Toronto starter Ricky Romero through the first six. Romero, who has lost 13 consecutive decisions, allowed seven hits and five walks but only one run. The Yankees stranded nine and were 2-for-11 off him with runners in scoring position.
"You always want to go up to the plate relaxed and your normal self," Ichiro said. "You can't get too high. The fans were into it, so I didn't want to get too high. So I just went up there relaxed and did my normal (thing). That's what you have to do, play your game."
Toronto manager John Farrell said, "He's a talented player, obviously a Hall of Fame type of player. He seems to have a flair for the dramatic, and that was the case again today. Seven base hits in the two games here today, and you know he fights off a first-pitch fastball and then dumps a single to left field to obviously score the game-winner. He's obviously one hell of a player."
The Yankees' pitching staff came up big in the nightcap, especially David Phelps. The right-hander threw a career-high 110 pitches, allowing one run and three hits while recording six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Phelps appeared to run out of gas when he loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh by issuing a walk to rookie Adeiny Hechavarria. Boone Logan recorded the final out of the seventh and the first two of the eighth before turning it over to Cody Eppley.
Ichiro's hit made a winner out of Eppley (1-2), who fanned Brett Lawrie for the final out of the eighth. Rafael Soriano pitched a hitless ninth for his 42nd save in 45 opportunities.
Phelps and Romero traded zeros for most of the first five innings with the exception of the second.
Phelps was making a spot start because of Tuesday's rainout.
The Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead with two outs in the second off Phelps. After fouling off three pitches and evening the count, Hechavarria slapped a single into center field, scoring J.P. Arencibia.
The Yankees tied it with two outs in the second on Chris Stewart's double that bounced into the left field seats. That would have given them the lead, but Nix was thrown out trying to score from second on Ichiro's single.
The Yankees kept it tied in the third with two outstanding defensive plays. Stewart made a perfect strike to catch Rajai Davis stealing second, and Swisher made a tumbling diving catch on Lawrie's sinking liner.
New York had a chance to take the lead in the fifth as Swisher and Cano had consecutive one-out singles. The rally was thwarted as Alex Rodriguez struck out swinging to a chorus of boos from the crowd and Granderson did the same on a 75 mph curveball.
In the opener of the doubleheader, Andy Pettitte gave the Yankees a needed boost and the bullpen held off a late charge from the Blue Jays in a New York 4-2 victory.
Pettitte (4-3) allowed four singles in five scoreless innings while throwing 75 pitches. He was making his first start since breaking his left fibula June 27.
The Yankees scored three runs in the first inning but still had to sweat in the eighth.
Toronto scored twice against reliever David Robertson and loaded the bases with two outs. Soriano walked No. 9 hitter Anthony Gose to load the bases but got Davis on a line drive to left that appeared as if it might hit Ichiro in the chest. Ichiro seemed in danger of overrunning it before he made the catch, holding on tight as he fell to his knees.
The Yankees added an insurance run on Swisher's two-out RBI single in the eighth, and Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his 41st save.
"Doubleheaders are tough," Jeter said. "It's tough to beat a team twice in one day. We had two close games, but our pitching deserves credit, Andy and our bullpen in the first one, and the same thing here in the night game. If you pitch like this, you're going to have a chance to win, and it was a much-needed day for us."
NOTES: Jeter (bone bruise in left ankle) was given Game 1 off. In the nightcap, Jeter started at shortstop for the first time since initially suffering the injury Sept. 12 in Boston. "Physically I was fine," Jeter said of his return to the field. "I was nervous and I was kind out of sync out there. I don't think I've gone six or seven days in the middle of the season without playing. It was a little weird out there but physically I'm fine." On the first pitch he saw, Jeter reached 200 hits for the eighth time, tying Lou Gehrig for the franchise record. ... Pitching prospect Dellin Betances was promoted to the Yankees to be placed on the 60-day disabled list, clearing room on the 40-man roster for Pettitte. Betances, who went 6-9 with a 6.44 ERA in Class AA and Class AAA combined, had been shut down due to shoulder inflammation. ... Casey McGehee started at first base for the Yankees in the nightcap. It was his first start since Aug. 22 in Chicago. ... Toronto first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion sat out both games with a toe injury. Adam Lind started at first base and Moises Sierra was the DH in the opener. In the nightcap, Lind was the DH and Yan Gomes started at first base.
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