NEW YORK - At this rate, Gary Sheffield and the New York Yankees will gladly play the Toronto Blue Jays a lot more.
Sheffield hit a three-run homer, Enrique Wilson also connected and the Yankees battered the Blue Jays 10-3 Wednesday night in their first meeting of the season.
Despite Derek Jeter sitting out with a small fracture in his right hand — he’s day-to-day — and Jason Giambi still ailing, New York sent Toronto to its eighth loss in nine games.
The AL East-leading Yankees play the last-place Blue Jays in 19 of their final 70 games. This one was over quickly, with New York taking an early seven-run lead and Alex Rodriguez’s infield single giving every starter a hit by the fifth inning.
“It’s a strange schedule,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “This is the worst schedule we’ve had in the nine years I’ve been here.
“Sure, you’re curious how you’re going to play them because you haven’t played them all year,” he said. “We hit more than they did.”
Slumping Bernie Williams added a pair of RBI singles for New York before a robust crowd of 53,031.
Sheffield’s three-run shot was his 19th of the season and 398th of his career, tying Dale Murphy and Andres Galarraga for 39th place on the all-time list.
Sheffield made it 9-2, connecting on the first pitch from Bob File after he relieved Pat Hentgen in the third inning.
“It’s an adjustment for me because I’m getting to learn their pitching staff,” Sheffield said. “You wish you would have played every team by now.”
Sheffield more than made up for the absences of Jeter and Giambi. Jeter did not play a day after he was hit by a pitch from Tampa Bay’s Victor Zambrano.
“I told him, ‘We’re not the Yankees without Jeter,”’ Sheffield said.
Jeter was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture in a bone between his wrist and hand. He will not wear a cast and told general manager Brian Cashman that he intends to play Thursday afternoon against Toronto.
“It could’ve been worse, but it’s not good, either,” Cashman said.
Hentgen (2-9) extended the longest losing streak of his career to seven decisions. The former AL Cy Young winner has been tagged especially hard lately, dropping four straight starts and giving up 25 earned runs in 12 1-3 innings during that span.
“I just had an awful game,” Hentgen said.
Javier Vazquez (11-6) was not sharp once again, yet did enough to post another victory. He was in constant trouble, but given a big edge, limited Toronto to three runs in six innings.
“He’s all over the place,” Torre said. “He just got jumpy. But he’ll get it. He had it earlier this year.”
Coming off a 1-0, 14-inning loss the previous day at Oakland, the Blue Jays had little time to rest in New York.
The Yankees scored five times in the second on a two-run single by Jorge Posada, an RBI single by Williams, a sacrifice fly by Miguel Cairo and a wild pitch. Williams was in a 2-for-41 rut when he got his hit.
New York broke it open with four more runs in the third. Williams singled home another run and Sheffield homered for the second straight day.
Wilson hit his career-high sixth home run leading off the fifth.
Gregg Zaun drew a bases-loaded walk and Eric Hinske had a sacrifice fly in the Toronto third. Frank Catalanotto hit an RBI double in the sixth.
Notes: Giambi, recently bothered by an intestinal parasite, underwent more tests. Slowed by fatigue, a new set of doctors is trying to determine what’s wrong. “I had that light at the end of the tunnel, but now it seems to be fading away,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. It’s like a stalemate.” ... Blue Jays RF Alex Rios made a strong throw to nail Hideki Matsui at the plate when he tried to score from second on Ruben Sierra’s single. ... Catalanotto made his first start since June 17 and matched a career high with three hits.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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