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Yanks' 11th walk-off caps big homestand

Yanks' 11th walk-off caps big homestand

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are quite unsure of what the future holds, with a daunting cross-country baseball tour ahead of them and four of their core players suddenly banged, bruised and beaten. And so in the moments following their latest walk-off victory -- Robinson Cano took Wednesday's pie in the face -- the Yankees felt more comfortable looking backward than ahead.

"There's nothing better than ending a homestand like that," Cano said.

The sixth win in seven tries this homestand ended just like the second victory, with the Yankees walking off winners in extra innings. This time, Cano hit the game-winner, this time it was a 4-3 final and this time it took only only 11 innings for game to end -- and perhaps none of that is a coincidence.

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"To be honest, I was trying to see if A-Rod or [Jorge] Posada was trying to go deep," Cano said, after his single to the wall plated Alex Rodriguez. "I was saying, 'I want to leave.' I was a little tired."

And that's only fair. It was an exhausting homestand for the Yankees, who swept the Red Sox in four games, then avoided a letdown and took two of three from the Jays. And it was a damaging series finale, too. The effects of Wednesday's game included precautionary X-rays for Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, a sore right hand for Posada and a somewhat compromised bullpen.

Because closer Mariano Rivera was unavailable with what manager Joe Girardi called a "cranky" right arm, right-hander Chad Gaudin made his Yankees debut in the 10th and fired two scoreless innings for the win. Gaudin could have thrown as many as 85 pitches, Girardi said afterward -- and considering Gaudin's adrenaline, he may have even been able to throw quite a few more.

"Every win is big -- especially now," Gaudin said. "I was willing to go the distance."

He didn't have to, thanks to an 11th-inning rally that began with a scare. With one out, Jays reliever Shawn Camp drilled Rodriguez in the left elbow with a fastball, causing the joint to go numb and A-Rod to stand cringing on the field for several moments.

Though Rodriguez did finally take his base, he did not stay there for long. The next batter, Posada, singled, before Cano drilled the first pitch he saw over Joe Inglett's head to the right-center-field wall.

Cano's hit came five days -- or, more accurately, 4 1/2 days -- after Rodriguez hit a walk-off homer in the 15th inning against the Red Sox early Saturday morning. And it came a day after Posada and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning on Tuesday to turn a likely loss into yet another win.

The Yankees have won close games with regularity, fashioning a 12-0 record this season when they are tied in the seventh. And they have christened their new stadium by capping 11 of their 41 home victories in their final at-bat.

"They have that kind of club over there," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "They have some good hitters there. It doesn't matter who's up there sometimes -- somebody is going to come up with a big hit. That's the way you win championships. That's the way you win the World Series."

"That's why we're in first place right now," Cano agreed.

That, yes, and pitching. The Yankees received better relief work than starting pitching on Wednesday, even if -- or perhaps because -- A.J. Burnett was sporting one of his nastiest curveballs of the season. Three times on Wednesday, Burnett snapped a curveball into the ground, the third of those wild pitches scoring Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth. But Burnett otherwise held his former team in check, allowing three runs -- one of them a solo homer to Randy Ruiz -- in six innings, striking out seven.

Phil Coke, David Robertson and Phil Hughes all strung up zeroes before Gaudin entered, in what Girardi knew would likely be his final pitching move -- one way or the other.

The Yankees had scored two of their three runs off Ricky Romero on solo homers, one by Johnny Damon and the other by Cano. And they plated their first run in familiarly painful fashion in the first, after Jeter took a Romero curveball off his right cleat.

Jeter, who took first base and scored on Posada's groundout, left the game after two innings with a contusion of the foot. Posada, meanwhile, stayed in, despite taking a foul ball off his hand and several other pitches off his body.

Perhaps Cano put it best when he described his reaction to having Burnett slam his face with pie: "It's not feeling good," Cano said, "but it's great."

The Yankees -- sans Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada and Rivera -- were not feeling good as they boarded their charter late Wednesday to Seattle. But they could hardly in good conscience complain.

Meanwhile, Gaudin, whose service time on losing teams has given him a different sort of perspective, sprinkled a bit of that over his teammates' wounds.

"It almost makes it seem like we do this every day," Gaudin said of the late-inning dramatics. "If this happens every day, it's going to be a fun rest of the year."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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