Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5

On the brink of the playoffs, A.J. Burnett and the New York

Yankees can’t seem to stop stumbling.

Vernon Wells hit a three-run homer, John Buck added a solo shot

and the Toronto Blue Jays pounded Burnett, then held on for a 7-5

victory over the Yankees on Monday night.

”He got hit hard tonight, there’s no doubt about it,” manager

Joe Girardi said of Burnett.

Toronto won its fifth straight, assured itself of at least a

.500 finish and temporarily denied the Yankees the chance to clinch

a playoff berth. Boston’s 6-1 road win over the Chicago White Sox

ensured New York would have to wait at least another day.

Mark Teixeira hit a three-run homer and Curtis Granderson added

a two-run drive for the Yankees, who have lost five of six and are

11-14 in September.

”Hopefully it means we’re getting it out of our system,”

Teixeira said of New York’s September swoon. ”We haven’t played

good baseball. That’s starters, that’s offense, defense, it’s

everything. Let’s get this out of our system and hopefully we do

make the playoffs and have a chance to win a World Series.”

Asked whether Burnett (10-15) could be counted on to pitch in

the playoffs, Girardi refused to answer.

”I’m not going to talk a whole lot about playoffs until we know

we’re in,” Girardi said. ”You’ve got to get there first and we’re

not there.”

Burnett said his struggles haven’t dented his appetite for

postseason baseball.

”I expect to start in the postseason,” he said. ”I just want

the ball.”

The Blue Jays lead the major leagues with 243 home runs this

season, one shy of the team record set in 2000.

Toronto left-hander Marc Rzepczynski (3-4) allowed two runs and

four hits in five innings to win consecutive starts for the first

time this season. He walked three and matched a career-high with

nine strikeouts.

”I felt like that was the best I’ve thrown the ball all year,”

Rzepczynski said. ”I had slider, fastball, was getting ahead and

able to expand after that.”

Brian Tallet pitched 1 1-3 innings, Josh Roenicke and Jesse

Carlson each got one out, Scott Downs worked the eighth and Kevin

Gregg closed it out for his 36th save in 41 chances.

”That was a big game for us,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston

said. ”No matter what happens the rest of the way out, this team

has done a great job this year.”

Burnett, who has lost seven of his past 11 starts, allowed seven

runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings, his second-shortest start of

the year. The right-hander, who walked one and struck out one, is

0-3 with a 9.61 ERA in four starts against his former team this

season.

”You can’t live in the middle of the plate and that’s what I

did,” Burnett said. ”I fell behind every hitter.

”Even the outs I got were hard-hit balls,” added Burnett, the

first Yankees pitcher to lose 15 games in a season since Melido

Perez went 13-16 in 1992.

Jose Bautista opened the scoring with an RBI groundout in the

first and Buck doubled the advantage with a leadoff homer to left

in the second, his career-high 19th, before the Blue Jays chased

Burnett with a five-run third.

Travis Snider walked to open the inning and Yunel Escobar was

hit, putting runners at first and second. Bautista flied out, but

Wells followed with a first-pitch drive to left for his 31st

homer.

Lyle Overbay doubled and scored on Buck’s single to center and

Burnett was yanked after Adam Lind singled through the right side.

Jonathan Albaladejo came on and gave up a sacrifice fly to Edwin

Encarnacion, then got John McDonald to fly out.

Granderson homered into the second deck in right off Rzepczynski

in the fifth, his 24th of the season, and Teixeira chased Tallet

with a one-out blast to center in the seventh for his 33rd of the

year.

Rzepczynski recorded eight consecutive outs by strikeouts

between the first and fourth innings, a streak that started when

Alex Rodriguez fanned to end the first. Robinson Cano struck out to

start the second and, after singles by Marcus Thames and Austin

Kearns, Rzepczynski struck out Granderson and Francisco

Cervelli.

Rzepczynski struck out the side in the third, setting down Derek

Jeter, Nick Swisher and Teixeira, then fanned Rodriguez again to

open the fourth.

”We’ve faced him a few times this year and I’ve never seen him

that good,” Teixeira said. ”His ball was moving everywhere. It’s

like swinging at a ghost out there. You didn’t know what it was

going to do.”

The streak ended when Cano flied out to right. Thames then

struck out to end the inning.

By striking out six straight batters, Rzepczynski matched Ted

Lilly’s team record set Aug. 23, 2004, against Boston.

NOTES: Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said closer Mariano Rivera

needs to vary his rhythm and be quicker to the plate to avoid a

repeat of Sunday’s game against Boston, in which Rivera allowed

four stolen bases in the ninth inning. Rivera, who has blown saves

in three of his past six appearances, worked on his mechanics

before the game with pitching coach Dave Eiland. … Blue Jays 2B

Aaron Hill, stuck in a 2-for-22 slump, was held out of the starting

lineup and replaced by McDonald.