Hill's straight steal of home and Rios' run-scoring sac fly were just two examples of Toronto finding ways to create runs against stingy Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-4). The veteran southpaw entered the game with a 2.66 ERA and continued that success over 7 1/3 innings for New York, which has now lost five games in a row.
The only issue for Pettitte was the way the Blue Jays (24-27) took advantage of their few scoring opportunities. Toronto stole two bases off the left-hander, used two sacrifice bunts to advance runners, and none of its three runs against Pettitte scored on base hits.
"I didn't think that you could lose an American League ballgame like that," said Pettitte, who allowed just one earned run. "It was a little unconventional I'd say tonight, but you've got to tip your hat to them. They won the game and did a great job of figuring out a way to win."
That began in the first inning, when Rios led off with an infield single and promptly advanced to second base on an error by New York shortstop Derek Jeter. During Toronto's pregame hitters meeting, third-base coach Brian Butterfield discussed potentially running against Pettitte.
Rios converted the first of the two Jays' stolen bases -- easily swiping third base during the opening frame. He then scored on a groundout to third by Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells that put the Jays ahead, 1-0.
"Every series, you try to prepare for anything that might happen," Butterfield said. "Our team has great respect for Andy. He has been a great pitcher and is still a great pitcher. Sometimes you have trouble scoring runs with the bats, and you try to have an alternative plan in some situations."
In a game where Toronto starter Shaun Marcum was keeping pace with Pettitte, the Jays had to rely on manufacturing runs. Marcum, who earned his third no-decision in four starts for Toronto, gave up no runs and just two hits in six innings. With five left-handed hitters due up for the Yankees (21-29) in the seventh, though, Jays manager John Gibbons turned to left-hander Scott Downs.
After New York slugger Jason Giambi belted a seventh-inning solo homer off Downs to knot the score at 1, the type of scenario Butterfield discussed with the hitters arose during the home half of the frame. A throwing error by New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez allowed Jason Phillips and Hill to advance to first and third base, repectively, with one out.
With Royce Clayton standing in the batter's box, blocking catcher Jorge Posada's view of Hill, the Jays' second baseman bolted for the plate on a 1-1 count. Pettitte, who initially thought he balked, stepped off the pitching rubber, and couldn't relay the ball to Posada in time to tag the sliding Hill.
It marked the first time that a Toronto player swiped home since Shea Hillenbrand accomplished the feat against the Yankees on Aug. 6, 2005. Hill's stolen base also represented the team's first straight steal of home since April 17, 2001, when Raul Mondesi stole home -- also against New York.
"We mentioned that if a situation came up, a guy on third, obviously [Pettitte] has his back to us," Hill said. "It was just the right place at the right time, I guess. [Butterfield] told me, 'If we get to a 1-1 count, we're going to go ahead and try it.' I started to get a little nervous and then I was like, 'All right, let's go.' Luckily, it worked out."
Not for long, though.
The Yankees took advantage of two Blue Jays errors in the eighth and tied the contest again -- this time on an RBI single by Posada off right-hander Casey Janssen. After Posada's hit, Gibbons turned to reliever Jeremy Accardo (1-0), who silenced New York the rest of the way, allowing Rios' sac fly to hold up as the game-winner.
"It was a good, pure baseball game," Gibbons said. "There's times you have to manufacture runs, get guys over and get them in, that kind of thing. It wasn't an easy game, but it was an exciting game."