"To me, that's like hitting a walk-off grand slam," A-Rod said. "I love it. That's the kind of baseball game we need to win. That's probably the best game we've been involved in this year."
"I guess it was fitting; it was incredible," said manager Joe Torre. "After last night's exhausting game, to play as well defensively as we did today was hugely important."
Jays starter Gustavo Chacin did his best to give the home team a chance, holding the Yanks to just one run over seven innings, but Chacon was even stingier, limiting Toronto to four hits and one walk.
"I was able to throw everything for strikes," Chacon said. "I was able to make pitches when I needed to. It was a good day."
The win was the Yankees' sixth in a row, giving them 10 wins in their last 13 games and 20 in their last 28. The victory allowed the Yankees to keep pace in the American League East and Wild Card races, as Boston and Cleveland both won on Saturday.
"Everybody knows that each game is huge," Chacon said. "Our playoffs start now. They probably started a week ago, so we have to make the best of each day."
"Any way you can get it done," said Derek Jeter. "We have to find ways to win; it may not be pretty at times, but the bottom line is wins and losses."
The Yankees tagged Chacin for the game's lone run in the second inning. Jorge Posada led off with a double, followed by singles by Ruben Sierra and Bernie Williams, the latter plating Posada.
That was the extent of the Yankees' offense until the sixth, when Hideki Matsui singled with one out. Posada then doubled to right-center, prompting third-base coach Luis Sojo to wave Matsui around third. Aaron Hill made a good relay throw, nailing Matsui at the plate.
"Luis got a little too aggressive in sending Matsui, especially on the turf where you get the ball quickly," Torre said. "We dodged a bullet."
Chacon retired the first seven Blue Jays he faced, allowing just one hit through the first four innings. The right-hander got in trouble for the first time with one out in the fifth when Hillenbrand singled and Eric Hinske was hit by a pitch, but Chacon retired the next two batters, ending the threat.
The Blue Jays tried to mount another rally against Chacon in the seventh, putting runners at first and second after Vernon Wells walked and Corey Koskie singled, the ball deflecting off second-base umpire Jim Hoye. But Chacon got Hillenbrand to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, then retired Hinske to carry the shutout through seven frames.
Chacon returned for the eighth, having thrown just 92 pitches. Robinson Cano made a tremendous play up the middle to rob Gregg Zaun of a hit to start the inning, then Matsui made a running catch for the second out, stealing a hit from Reed Johnson.
"Those were game-saving plays," Chacon said. "The play Robbie made to start the eighth, that's huge in a one-run ballgame. Matsui's catch was unbelievable.
"You don't expect it, but when you throw strikes, the defense doesn't get back on their heels," the pitcher added. "They're ready to make plays. They know I'm going to make them put the ball in play, and they were ready."
Hill singled with two outs to put the tying run on base, but Chacon got Russ Adams to pop out to end the inning, ending his afternoon as well.
With Mariano Rivera unavailable after pitching in each of the last three games, Tom Gordon came in from the bullpen to close out the game. Gordon gave up two quick hits to Frank Catalanotto and Wells, putting the winning runs on base.
Gordon struck out Koskie for the first out, then got Hillenbrand to hit into the game-ending double play.
"I got the ball and threw it as hard as I could to Cano, then Cano made a nice play. Tino made the real good play on the in-between hop," A-Rod said, noting that pinch-runner Alex Rios was rounding third for home when Cano made his throw to first. "[First-base umpire Marv Hudson] delayed the call; if the call is safe, the game is tied."
"It was tremendous -- great players making a great play," Gordon said. "I needed a double play. I tried to make sure that if he hit the ball, he hit it at somebody in the infield."
With wins in each of the first five games of their road trip, the Yankees will look to complete their perfect week on Sunday, as Jaret Wright takes on Ted Lilly.
"We understand that it's in our hands," Posada said. "The pitching is stepping up; the defense is stepping up. The concentration is there, so hopefully we'll keep doing what we're doing."