TORONTO-- George Bell sat in front of his locker, rubbing a deep bruise just below his right thumb. Bell was explaining how the injury doesn't hurt so much when he hits the ball, but when he swings and misses.
It's suffice the bruise hasn't been too troublesome of late. Like most of the Blue Jays, Bell has been making frequent and devastating contact over the last two weeks, and shows no sign of letting up.
Bell continued his torrid hitting with three hits and three runs scored Saturday afternoon as Toronto hammered the Yankees, 8-4, to maintain their half-game lead over Boston in the American League East.
Rookie John Olerud, hitting .426 in his last 13 games, stroked a pair of RBI doubles and Fred McGriff, who had missed two games with a hand injury of his own, added a couple of hits and a walk as the Jays stopped the Yankees' modest winning streak at a season-high four games.
No, hitting hasn't been a problem for the Jays, who lead the AL in batting average, home runs and slugging percentage. Their starting pitching has been another matter.
In Thursday's series opener, six runs hadn't been enough. They lost with seven runs Friday. But eight was enough here Saturday as Todd Stottlemyre turned in another solid effort to win his fourth consecutive start.
Stottlemyre (8-6) wasn't especially sharp, but he had ample support from his hot-hitting teammates, who have scored 31 runs in his four consecutive wins.
"I've been fortunate in that way," Stottlemyre said. "The team has been very supportive on the days I've started. As I keep saying, I just hope that when the situation comes, I'll be able to win the close ballgames.
"We lost the first two games of this series, but we never quit. After the way we lost last (Friday) night, to be able to put eight runs on the board says a lot for this ballclub."
Still smarting from Friday's 15-inning loss, the Jays fell behind quickly when Matt Nokes touched Stottlemyre for a two-run homer in the second. Nokes is now 12 for 21 lifetime against the Jays' young right-hander, with three home runs.
"Nokes owns me," Stottlemyre said with a smile. "I've tried everything. I could set the ball on a tee for him and he wouldn't hit me any better."
Yankee starter Tim Leary must have been astonished by this uncommon show of support. The Yankees had scored only eight total runs in his eight previous losses, and Leary (3-10) wasted no time in giving them back.
The Jays took a 3-2 lead in their half of the second on a two-out, three-run double by Glenallen Hill. They took advantage of Leary's wildness to score three more in the third -- scoring two runs on wild pitches while Leary was in the process of striking out Bell.
Olerud, whose swing could reduce Ted Williams to tears, rapped a pair of run-producing doubles -- one into the right-center field gap, the other down the left field line -- to make it 8-3. All of this came at the expense of Leary, New York's ace, who permitted eight runs in a game for the first time in his major league career.
That lead seemed comfortable enough, at least until Toronto manager Cito Gaston sent Duane Ward to the mound in the eighth. Ward, who had ripped into Toronto's fans earlier in the series, might be the only person in Canada more reviled than Prime Minister Mulroney these days.
Ward, who has blown five saves already this month, did nothing to recapture the good graces of the fans. He yielded four hits in the ninth inning, allowing the Yankees to send the tying run to the plate and permitting the SkyDome crowd to shower him with a fresh torrent of boos.
But Tom Henke, throwing mostly breaking balls with the bases full, struck out slumping Don Mattingly on a ball in the dirt, then fanned Mel Hall on three dipping curves to end it.
So it wasn't easy. And once again, it wasn't brief, although Saturday's affair, which took 3 hours, 13 minutes to complete, was the quickest of the three thus far. That's what happens when teams are in prime hitting form -- as the Jays and, to a lesser extent, the Yankees are now.
"We've been swinging the bats pretty good for the last 15 or 16 games," said Gaston, whose team has won 12 of its last 16. "I just hope it continues."