Playing for pride

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Blue Jays starting pitcher A.J. Burnett threw 120 pitches against the New York Yankees and one shaving cream pie at designated hitter Frank Thomas last night.

And when Burnett throws a pie at a teammate, it's always good news for the Blue Jays.

Burnett pitched eight solid innings, giving up only four hits and striking out eight, and Thomas hit a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth, as the Blue Jays defeated the Yankees 2-1.

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Jays and returned the club to the .500 mark (73-73).

With 16 games remaining, the Jays essentially are playing for just pride now, but Thomas believes that it is important they play out the season on a high note.

"It's tough right now, I've been in this position a few times in my career and you have to find a way to motivate yourself through the rest of the season," he said. "(But) some of the young guys should give the impression to the manager (John Gibbons) that they want a job next year, so there's all types of things that help motivate the guys down the stretch."

Burnett certainly has made an impression on his manager, and his teammates, since returning from the DL on Aug. 12. Even though he did not get the win last night, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.79 ERA in seven starts since returning to the lineup.

Last night, he was replaced in the ninth inning by Casey Janssen with the score tied 1-1. Janssen gave up a lead-off single to Bobby Abreu, but then struck out American League home run leader Alex Rodriguez. Janssen was replaced by left-hander Scott Downs, who managed to get the final two outs. Downs picked up the win.

Burnett deserved better than a no-decision, so too did New York starter Ian Kennedy, who was Burnett's equal over seven innings, holding Toronto just one hit and striking out seven. Burnett was just happy to give his team another quality start.

"We just want to win," he said. "That's all that matters around here right now, is just winning. I did all I could do."

Rios, who began the game at centre field for Vernon Wells, kicked things off in the ninth inning with a single up the middle off of reliever Chris Britton, and then stole second after being given the green light by Gibbons. Thomas, who doubled home Russ Adams for Toronto's other run in the first, did the rest. Britton was slapped with the loss.

The Yankees almost pulled it off in the top of the ninth, but two sound defensive plays saved it for Toronto. After Janssen gave up the lead off single to Abreu, Downs mishandled a slow bouncer hit by Hideki Matsui, although it was ruled an infield single, moving Abreu to second. Robinson Cano then hit a pitch up the middle, which was handled deftly by Toronto shortstop John McDonald for the out at first. First baseman Lyle Overbay then dove to his left to snag a Melky Cabrera grounder for the third out.

Johnny Damon tied the game at 1-1 with his 11th home run into the second deck in right on a 2-1 pitch from Burnett in the sixth.


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