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Yanks use long ball to edge Blue Jays

Randy Johnson had an ill-timed eruption Friday night. Good thing his teammates timed their explosion perfectly.

The New York Yankees pounded the fences for nine runs after the Big Unit's stunning second-inning ejection and then held off the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-10, before a Rogers Centre crowd of 36,543.

The Yankees crushed four home runs and did all their scoring in the first four innings to post their fifth straight win and keep pace in the hunt for October. New York remained a half-game behind Cleveland in the American League wild-card race and 1 1/2 behind Boston in the AL East.

Rookie second baseman Robinson Cano led the offense with his first career two-home run game and had five RBIs for the second straight night. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez pounded his AL-leading 43rd homer and catcher John Flaherty chipped in his second.

The Yankees scored four runs in the third and five more in the fourth to bolt to an 11-3 lead, but that was secondary to what happened in the Toronto second.

Plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth ran Johnson with two outs after Johnson thought his 2-2 fastball had nicked the corner for an inning-ending strikeout of Frank Menechino. Johnson took a couple of steps toward the plate, Culbreth bolted from behind the dish toward the mound, and the Yankees' top starter -- who was coming off seven innings of one-hit ball Sunday against Boston -- got a quick heave-ho before catcher John Flaherty could intervene.

"He gives you an honest day's work and doesn't normally overreact," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Culbreth. "I just think we have to pay more attention to the time of year and the emotion and stuff that goes on."

Johnson had started griping to Culbreth in the first inning during an at-bat against Toronto's Vernon Wells that ended with Wells lining a three-run homer to left. The carping continued in the second, and the umpire quickly lost patience.

"I told him to knock it off and get back on the mound," Culbreth told a pool reporter. "He screamed again, an expletive, and 'just call it a strike.' And at that point, he also screamed out, 'And the pitch on Wells was an (expletive) strike as well.' And at that point I ejected him."

"I was disappointed (Culbreth) reacted the way he did, but maybe he had a legitimate gripe," Flaherty admitted. "Randy was saying some things in the first inning, and by the second inning (Culbreth) had enough of it and threw him out."

Johnson had exited the premises by the time reporters were allowed in the clubhouse. It was his first ejection since 1998 when he was with Seattle and his shortest start since giving up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings for the Mariners on July 23, 1993, at Cleveland.

"You would have thought at least a warning would have been put out there," Rodriguez said. "I was shocked."

The Yankees got 3 2/3 innings of relief from winner Scott Proctor (1-0), who retired seven of the first eight batters he faced following Johnson's ejection.

Cano's first home run, a three-run shot to right in the third, was the Yankees' 200th of the season. That made them the first team in history to collect at least 200 home runs in six straight years.

Rodriguez sent a towering two-run blast off Windows restaurant in deep right-center to make it 8-3 in the fourth, and Cano added a two-run shot later in the inning. But in the seventh, Rodriguez was drilled in the left forearm by Toronto rookie Justin McGowan.

"That hurts," Rodriguez said. "It swelled up right away and it worries me, but I'll be back out there (today). I'm just proud of the way we overcame things and swung the bats. Fortunately, it worked out. It could have been very ugly."

Shawn Chacon (4-3) will start for the Yankees when the series continues today at 4:05 p.m. (YES). He will be opposed by Toronto rookie left-hander Gustavo Chacin (12-8).

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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