Series: Game 2 of 3

Series tied 1-1 (as of 9/21)

Game 1: Monday, September 20
NY Yankees3
Game 2: Tuesday, September 21
NY Yankees5
Game 3: Wednesday, September 22
NY Yankees4

Blue Jays 3

(63-88, 25-48 away)

Yankees 5

(95-56, 53-23 home)

    7:05 PM ET, September 21, 2004

    Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York 

    123456789 R H E
    TOR 020000001 3 5 0
    NYY 12001001 - 5 11 0

    W: E. Loaiza (10-7)

    L: R. Halladay (7-8)

    S: M. Rivera (50)

    Rivera saves 50th of season

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Jason Giambi took a curtain call and Esteban Loaiza got the souvenir ball. For a pair of guys struggling since playing in the All-Star game, it was a nice time to break out.

    Giambi homered to end the longest slump of his career and Loaiza finally earned his 100th career victory and first for the Yankees, leading New York over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Tuesday night.

    "It doesn't get much better than that," Giambi said.

    Added Loaiza: "I feel a lot more part of it now."

    Gary Sheffield hit his 36th home run two days after getting a pair of cortisone shots. Alex Rodriguez almost homered for the Yankees, too, but center fielder Vernon Wells made a spectacular catch to stop him.

    "You hate to rob guys of stuff they earn, but that's the way it goes," Wells said.

    Mariano Rivera matched his career high with his 50th save as the Yankees held their 4½-game lead over Boston in the AL East and stopped Toronto's three-game winning string.

    Giambi had been 0-for-32, with 11 of those at-bats coming since he returned from the disabled list after being diagnosed with a benign tumor. Manager Joe Torre kept the former AL MVP on the bench the previous three games, but started him this time because he had good career numbers against Roy Halladay.

    Batting seventh for the first time this season, Giambi went the opposite way for a two-run shot to left-center in the second. Torre clapped in the dugout while Derek Jeter and several teammates came out to greet the slugger. Giambi later added a sacrifice fly.

    "Everybody is pulling for him," Torre said. "Sometimes when everyone is pulling for you, you try too hard. It doesn't always turn out that way."

    With less than two weeks left in the regular season, Torre is still deciding whether Giambi is swinging well enough to make the postseason roster. Giambi's 12th home run was his first since June 20 against Los Angeles closer Eric Gagne.

    "Now, it's just backing it up day after day," Giambi said.

    Loaiza (10-7) outpitched Halladay (7-8) after finishing runner-up to the Toronto ace last year in the AL Cy Young voting. Halladay came off the disabled list to make this start and left after four innings trailing 3-2 -- it was his first outing since July 16, when he went on the DL for the second time this season because of a tired right shoulder.

    Loaiza started for the first time since Aug. 27, having been banished to the bullpen because of ineffectiveness. He won No. 100 on his seventh try -- the Yankees got the two-time All-Star from the Chicago White Sox on July 31 for equally puzzling Jose Contreras.

    "I want to take it beyond today," he said.

    After fanning three on called third strikes in the first inning, Loaiza completely lost control in the second. He walked three, and Toronto scored on Kevin Cash's sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. When it was posted on the scoreboard that Tanyon Sturtze was warming up for the Yankees, the fans cheered.

    At that point, Loaiza had gone to a three-ball count on eight of 11 batters. But after quickly returning to the clubhouse to watch video of his pitches, he did it only once more and retired his final 11 hitters.

    Loaiza was all smiles when Torre pulled him after 5 1-3 innings, and he tipped his hat to the crowd.

    "I was hopeful," said Torre, who gave Loaiza the lineup card. "After he got through that one inning, he was great."

    Relievers Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon blanked the Blue Jays before Rivera pitched the ninth. He gave up an RBI groundout to pinch-hitter Chris Gomez, then got the last out and gave the ball to Loaiza.

    Wells kept the Yankees from scoring more. Rodriguez launched a high drive in the first and Wells planted his spikes into the padded wall, pulled himself up on the 7-foot-3 fence and jackknifed over to make a backhanded catch.

    Fans gasped when they saw the replay and gave a rare cheer for a visiting player. At the end of the inning, Wells got high-fives from his teammates and Rodriguez trotted toward him.

    "He was yelling at me. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but he wasn't too happy with me," Wells said with a grin.

    Game notes

    Giambi is 14-for-40 with three homers off Halladay. ... Sheffield hit his 415th homer, moving past Darrell Evans into 36th place on the career list. ... Brandon League made his major league debut and became the team-record 25th pitcher used by Toronto this year. He relieved in the fifth, threw a 96 mph called strike to Sheffield with his first pitch and worked 1 1-3 scoreless innings.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press