Zaun's homer in 14th stops Yankees

Zaun's homer in 14th stops Yankees

NEW YORK -- Spoiler alert. The Blue Jays headed into the lion's den that is Yankee Stadium on Friday night and continued to be a pest in the race for the American League East crown.

As Toronto's latest tilt neared the five-hour mark, Jays catcher Gregg Zaun turned on a 1-1 offering and sent it arcing into the New York night in the 14th inning. The baseball crashed into the right-field stands, quieting the crowd and sending the Blue Jays on their way to a 5-4 victory.

"I did swing a little bit extra on that," said Zaun, who managed the slightest smile after enduring an exhausting contest that nearly slipped out of Toronto's grasp.

Behind a dominant outing by Toronto ace Roy Halladay, the Blue Jays carried a 4-0 lead into the ninth inning -- only to see the Yankees storm back in a furious four-run rally that had the Stadium quaking. In the end, though, New York's comeback went for naught when Zaun connected with a 14th-inning fastball from reliever Brian Bruney.

Zaun's heroics, which came after he went hitless in his first five at-bats, helped seal the fourth win in a row for the Jays (78-75), who are coming off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox. The series win over Boston helped New York gain serious ground in the AL East, but the victory in the Bronx knocked the Yankees 2 1/2 games back of the Sox for the division's lead.

"We haven't made too many comebacks like that in this ballpark, especially after blowing a lead," Zaun said. "It's nice for us to get that win. We had a good series against Boston -- swept them -- and it was nice to get rolling."

Halladay came within one out of his eighth complete game and 16th win of the season, but both prospects were quickly erased when Toronto's bullpen wasn't able to stop the bleeding in the ninth. Prior to that inning, the right-hander kept New York (88-65) off the scoreboard for the first eight innings.

"Doc deserved to get a win tonight," Zaun said. "But we had a little letdown in the ninth."

It was more than a little letdown.

New York left fielder Johnny Damon kicked off the comeback by collecting a double off Halladay to open the ninth. Two batters later, Bobby Abreu added a single to put runners on the corners with one out for the surging Yankees.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez followed with an RBI single to center field, cutting New York's deficit to three runs. Then, Jorge Posada chopped a two-out pitch to Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, who gloved the ball up the middle and fired it toward first base.

Hill's throw bounced to the dirt in front of first base, where Lyle Overbay scooped it up and bobbled it, allowing Posada to reach safely and another run to score. Instead of a game-ending grounder, Hill's throwing error had the Jays desperately clinging to a 4-2 lead with the tying run on first.

"I did what I thought I had to do, and I just didn't have the grip I wanted," Hill said with a shrug. "I was just mad, because I made that play about two or three times tonight up the middle. The bottom line is it's a good thing we came out on top."

With Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano due up next, Toronto manager John Gibbons strolled out to the mound and called it a night for Halladay in favor of left-hander Scott Downs. Not long after being pulled, Halladay could be seen yelling in Toronto's dugout.

Gibbons wouldn't say whether Halladay voiced any anger over being taken out of the game in that situation or not.

"That's none of your business," Gibbons said. "He lays it out there every night."

On this night, Halladay watched his effort evaporate in the ninth.

The Yankees' hitters were handcuffed by Halladay, chopping pitch after pitch to the infield grass and into the gloves of Jays defenders. In 8 2/3 innings, Halladay induced 18 outs via ground ball and finished with four strikeouts and eight hits allowed.

After Halladay exited, Cano grounded a pitch from Toronto lefty Scott Downs slowly to Hill's left, where it slipped just beyond the second baseman's glove and into right field for an RBI single. Downs then yielded another base hit -- this time to Jason Giambi -- that plated Posada and knotted the score at 4.

"That would've been a real tough one to lose," Gibbons said. "It never fails with this team, even with a four-run lead, now they're rolling out the top of their lineup, and something happens. Until the final out is made, they're never out of it."

New York's rally also canceled out the work of Toronto's offense, which touched Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang for two runs in seven innings. In the eighth, Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios added a two-run home run off Yankees reliever Edwar Ramirez to put Toronto on top, 4-0.

Halladay didn't get the chance to see if that lead could hold up, but he didn't fault Gibbons for turning to the bullpen.

"I don't see how you can second-guess that move," Halladay said. "We won, so that's what matters. You can't get caught up in the other stuff. It would've been nice to [win] it earlier, but we're here to win, and that's what we ended up doing."

Red Sox Nation can thank Zaun for that.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.