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Wright, Yankees take a hit <br> Pitcher hit in elbow by bat in loss to Jays

You know some of the New York Yankees are sneaking a peek at the scoreboard to see what Boston and Cleveland are doing. But pitcher Jaret Wright insists he's trying to stay squarely focused on his job in the heat of the pennant race regardless of what's going on elsewhere.

Seems like Wright better pay closer attention. He can't avoid whatever is heading toward the mound.

Wright gave up four runs and was knocked from the game when struck in the elbow by a broken bat Sunday as the Yankees fell to the the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5.

A Rogers Centre crowd of 39,891 saw the Yankees' six-game winning streak end as they failed to gain ground on the Red Sox. New York is 1 1/2 games out in both key races, behind Boston in the AL East and Cleveland in the wild-card hunt.

Wright suffered a bruise and contusion to his right elbow when the barrel of leadoff man Eric Hinske's bat struck him in the bottom of the third. The ball rolled meekly to first for an easy out but Wright was pulled early for the second time in his last four starts. He got drilled in the collarbone Sept. 1 at Seattle and left in the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead in a game the Yankees eventually lost, 5-1.

"It's two freak things that don't happen that much but it did again today," said Wright, a former Buffalo Bison. "I just have to move on. A ball in the neck is one thing. A broken bat to basically the only spot it could take you out is tough. It doesn't need to hit you hard right there. Anytime it's your arm, there's a little more concern."

Wright (5-3) briefly went down when he was struck, then got up and kicked the mound in frustration as Al Leiter was called from the bullpen. Wright said afterward his elbow was "sore and tight" and it's possible he might be skipped in his next start to allow Mike Mussina back into the rotation.

"He keeps getting in the way and I know he's frustrated by it," said manager Joe Torre. "He's trying to help us win in a pennant race. It just seems like he's stepping in a few potholes."

Maybe Wright was deserving of an early exit because of the misery his teammates unleashed upon him. The Yankees' defense, which was Gold Glove-caliber in Saturday's 1-0 win, betrayed Wright Sunday in a three-run
Toronto second.

With one out and Gregg Zaun running from first, Frank Menechino's looper to right fell in front of Ruben Sierra to put men at the corners. Sierra pulled back from the ball, when it appeared he had a chance to make the play.

The Yankees couldn't pull a more difficult twin-killing to get out of the inning either. Derek Jeter fielded Russ Adams' two-hopper to short, stepped on the bag to force Menechino but threw high to first, pulling Jason Giambi off the bag to the home plate side.

Wright then got into further trouble when he hit Frank Catalanatto with a pitch, and the runners advanced on a Jorge Posada passed ball. Vernon Wells followed by lining a 2-2 fastball into right-center for a two-run single and a 4-0 Toronto lead.

"Adams gets down the line pretty good," Jeter said. "I had no time to flip (to second base). I had to take it and get the throw there but it just got away."

Toronto starter Ted Lilly (9-10) won for the first time since July 19 by allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Four relievers finished up as the Blue Jays held off a Yankees' comeback that included Alex Rodriguez's AL-leading 44th home run, a two-run shot in the third.

Robinson Cano's two-out RBI double in the top of the ninth closed the margin to a run. But Jeter -- who belted a solo homer in the eighth -- took a called third strike from Toronto closer Miguel Batista to end the game and send the Yankees back to the Bronx for their final homestand of the season, beginning tonight against Baltimore.

"We're not sitting here saying, 'We went 5-1 on this trip,' " Jeter said. "We're not thinking about the last five games. We lost today. Our focus is to win the division. The (out-of-town) scores are tough to miss here because they have them on half the outfield wall but if we just keep winning, we'll be where we want to be."

Torre said he was having dinner here Saturday night when he got a phone call from comedian/rabid Yankees fan Billy Crystal informing him the Red Sox and Indians had both won by a run.

Crystal was probably crazed with worry. Torre wasn't fazed. His team has 14 games left and simply needs to do its own thing.

"We're buried in our game right now and I'm very pleased with that," Torre said. "It's the only thing we can control."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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