By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — The chants of “Ich-i-ro” swelled in the eighth inning as the wiry batter with the slashing swing walked to home plate. With six hits already in this doubleheader, fans expected something special from the Japanese star.
Surprising even himself, Ichiro Suzuki delivered.
Suzuki had a go-ahead single in the eighth inning to help the New York Yankees complete a doubleheader sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-1 win Wednesday night that ensured they remained atop the AL East.
The 10-time All-Star’s performance helped New York win its fourth straight and guaranteed it would end the night with at least a half-game division lead, pending on the outcome of Baltimore’s game against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners.
“I haven’t done anything different today so I don’t know what the difference was,” Suzuki said through a translator.
The 38-year-old Suzuki made a difficult catch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the opener to preserve a lead for Andy Pettitte in a 4-2 victory. He went 7 for 8 in the two games and stole four of New York’s seven bases in the finale.
“I came in the middle of the season and I always wanted to contribute, wanted to help in this pennant race and today is a great day that I was able to help,” said Suzuki, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle in late July. “I’m very sad the day is over.”
He had three hits in the opener batting leadoff in place of Derek Jeter, who rested his sore ankle in the first game of the day-night doubleheader. Jeter started at shortstop for the first time in a week in the nightcap and got his 200th hit on Ricky Romero’s first pitch.
The single to center tied Jeter with Lou Gehrig for most 200-hit seasons for New York with eight.
Feeling nervous and out of sync at shortstop after the long layoff, Jeter was most impressed with Suzuki’s day.
“That’s tough to do,” Jeter said. “Doubleheader. I don’t think I’ve ever done that in a doubleheader. I’ve been on the other side of it maybe an 0 for 8.”
Rafael Soriano closed both games, notching his 41st and 42nd saves, the first time he saved two in one day.
The Blue Jays, playing their first doubleheader against the Yankees since 1986, were without shortstop Yunel Escobar, who began a three-game suspension for wearing eye black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.
Toronto dropped to 66-81, guaranteeing it will not have a winning record this season.
With the score 1-all, Curtis Granderson was walked by Steve Delabar (4-3) to open the eighth. He moved up on Jayson Nix’s sacrifice and stole third. With two outs, Suzuki guided an opposite field hit to left for the lead. Suzuki stole two bases in the inning.
“It was just an unbelievable day,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Cody Eppley (1-2) got one out for his first win since April 27, 2011, for Texas against Toronto.
David Phelps followed Pettitte’s sparkling five-inning return to the mound from a broken lower left leg by pitching into the seventh. He gave up one run and three hits.
Romero remained tied for the Blue Jays record with 13 straight losses and walked five to up his AL-leading total to 99. It was his third game in which he allowed one run and didn’t win — two no-decisions.
“I had a good delivery,” Romero said. “That’s one of the things I battled myself all year.”
Adeiny Hechavarria’s RBI single in the second after Phelps walked was just the 24th run Toronto has scored in Romero’s last 13 starts.
In the bottom half, Chris Stewart drove in a run with a double to left that bounced over the wall and prevented Suzuki from scoring from first. Suzuki had singled and Nix was thrown out trying to score on a strong throw by center fielder Colby Rasmus. Romero had walked two to set up the tying run.
Romero was finished after allowing seven hits in six innings. He struck out five.
In the opener, Pettitte (4-3) gave up four hits in his first start since a hot shot off the bat of Cleveland’s Casey Kotchman broke his left fibula on June 27.
“He gave us everything that we asked for,” Girardi said.
Pettitte struggled a bit with his command, walking two, but kept the Blue Jays from hitting the ball hard with a biting breaking ball. He put runners on in each of his first four innings and had a runner on third in the second through fourth innings. But he got timely groundouts in the second, third — a double play — and fourth to avoid trouble. Then had a six-pitch fifth to earn the win.
“My arm feels great. My break area feels great. I’m a hundred percent,” Pettitte said. “Just real happy with how my arm is feeling. More than anything it’s my legs. I just got to get my legs back in shape.”
With the 40-year-old lefty on a 75-pitch limit, Girardi mixed and matched liberally, using six relievers.
Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan held Toronto scoreless through seven innings. Then Robertson gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson and a run-scoring double to Omar Vziquel in the eighth.
Soriano relieved with two outs and runners on second and third. He walked Anthony Gose after a foul drive that landed about a foot foul down the left-field line. Rajai Davis followed with a sinking liner to left field that Suzuki caught, pulling the glove to his stomach to protect the ball. TIGERS 6, ATHLETICS
DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera homered, Omar Infante drove in three runs and Justin Verlander pitched six scoreless innings to help Detroit.
Verlander (15-8) allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five.
The Tigers have won two straight over the A’s — and 28 of their last 36 games at home — in their chase to catch the AL Central-leading Chicago.
Oakland, clinging to an AL wild-card spot, has dropped three straight and might have had a costly loss on the mound because Brett Anderson (4-2) left the game after two-plus innings with a strained right oblique.
Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta had an error in the fifth — snapping a 75-game errorless streak — but he helped turn a double play to end the inning. He chipped in at the plate in the home half, hitting an RBI single to put Detroit ahead 4-0.
Cabrera hit his 41st home run and got his 130th RBI.
RAYS 13, RED SOX 3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Desmond Jennings hit a two-run triple during Tampa Bay’s seven-run sixth-inning, and the Rays snapped a four-game losing streak.
Jennings scored following his triple against reliever Alfredo Aceves when the throw from the outfield eluded third baseman Pedro Ciriaco.
Four Boston pitchers walked six in the sixth, including passes to Carlos Pena and Jose Molina with the bases loaded. Luke Scott had a sacrifice fly, and Jeff Keppinger added an RBI single.
Keppinger hit a solo homer, and Pena added a two-shot off Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6) as Tampa Bay went ahead 5-3 in the fourth.
Chris Archer (1-3) allowed three runs and five hits over five innings for the Rays, who won for the second time in nine games. It was the rookie’s first major league win.
The Red Sox (68-82), assured of their first losing season since 1997, got two RBIs from Jacoby Ellsbury.
TWINS 6, INDIANS 4
CLEVELAND — Josh Willingham had four hits and four RBIs and Minnesota’s Liam Hendriks finally got his first career win as Cleveland dropped into last place in the AL Central.
Willingham belted a tiebreaking two-run homer off Zach McAllister (5-8) in the fifth inning, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead. He also had three singles.
Hendriks (1-7) pitched six effective innings to get the win in his 18th career start. Glen Perkins worked the ninth for his 14th save.
Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera homered, but left in the seventh with a sore right wrist.
Cleveland fell to 11-39 since July 26 and has dropped 11 of its last 13 at home. The Indians led the AL Central for 40 days and held a four-game advantage on May 17, but are 39-72 since.
Hendriks allowed two runs and two hits. The right-hander, who made four starts in 2011, was the fifth pitcher since 1920 to go winless in his first 17 starts, three shy of the record shared by Bill Caudill of the Chicago Cubs (1979-81) and Mike Mohler of Oakland (1993-97).
ROYALS 3, WHITE SOX 0
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bruce Chen pitched into the seventh inning and Alex Gordon hit a two-run double as Kansas City snapped Chicago’s five-game winning streak.
Billy Butler hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning, but that was it until Gordon connected off Chris Sale (17-7) with two outs in the seventh.
Chen (11-12) scattered five hits and three walks over 6 2-3 innings to win for just the second time in six starts.
Kelvin Herrera pitched around two base runners in the eighth, and Greg Holland yielded a two-out double in the ninth before finishing for his 14th save.
Escobar finished with three hits for the Royals, who staved off official elimination for one more day. The White Sox (81-67) had their AL Central lead over Detroit trimmed to two games.
The White Sox, 3-2 winners in the series opener, wound up going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
NATIONALS 7, DODGERS 6
DODGERS 3, NATIONALS 1
WASHINGTON — Matt Kemp scored a phantom run early, then hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning — right after Washington rallied with a six-run eighth — and the struggling Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed a 7-6 victory for a doubleheader split that prevented the Nationals from sewing up a playoff berth.
Kemp was credited with crossing home to give Los Angeles a 6-0 lead in the fourth, even though TV replays showed the inning’s last out already had been recorded on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s head-over-heels, reaching tag of runner Adrian Gonzalez.
That extra run loomed large when the hosts — who had won the opener 3-1 thanks largely to Jordan Zimmermann’s six innings of one-run baseball — wound up sending 12 batters to the plate while scoring six runs in the eighth.
Michael Morse had a homer and a two-run single, and Washington chased Josh Beckett, who had allowed only two hits through seven innings.
The announced crowd of 26,931 was getting loud, perhaps anticipating a comeback and playoff-clinching victory, when Kemp drove an 0-2 pitch from Tyler Clippard (2-5) over the wall in center for his 19th homer.
Ronald Belisario (7-1) earned the win by getting the last two outs of the eighth inning. Brandon League picked up his third save with a hitless ninth.
Zimmermann (11-8) allowed one run and six hits in six innings in the opener. Clippard pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
Dodgers starter Aaron Harang (9-10) lasted just 4 2-3 innings in the first game.
BRAVES 3, MARLINS 0
MIAMI — Kris Medlen pitched eight innings of four-hit ball and the Braves won his start for the 21st straight time.
Medlen (9-1) lost the first two starts of his career in 2009. He hasn’t taken a loss in any of his 26 starts since, with the Braves prevailing in the last 21 of those — making them the first team since the New York Yankees to have such a streak, according to STATS LLC.
The Yankees won 22 straight times when Whitey Ford started games from 1950 through 1953, a span interrupted by Ford serving in the Korean War.
Chipper Jones, playing his last game against Miami, went 1 for 4, getting hit No. 2,721 to tie Gehrig for 58th on baseball’s career list.
Rob Brantly doubled for Miami, which was shut out for the 16th time this season. Josh Johnson (8-13) gave up three runs in six innings.
Craig Kimbrel picked up his 38th save in 41 chances for Atlanta.
PHILLIES 3, METS 2
NEW YORK — Ryan Howard hit a go-ahead homer with two outs in the ninth inning and the Phillies rallied for a dramatic victory.
Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff home run but the Phillies went into the ninth with only two hits. Chase Utley worked a two-out walk against rookie Josh Edgin (1-2), filling in for ailing Mets closer Frank Francisco, and Howard launched a 93 mph fastball off the facing of the second deck in right field to give his team a 3-2 lead.
Trying for a last-gasp postseason charge after a miserable first half, the surging Phillies (75-74) won for the 10th time in 13 games. They remained four games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot.
Jeremy Horst (2-0) got the win and Jonathan Papelbon worked a one-hit ninth for his 36th save in 40 tries.
David Wright hit a solo homer but the Mets (66-82) dropped their eighth straight home game and 24th in the last 28 at Citi Field.
BREWERS 3, PIRATES 1
PITTSBURGH — Marco Estrada pitched seven scoreless innings and rookie shortstop Jean Segura hit a double and triple as the surging Brewers stayed in contention for a postseason berth.
Estrada (4-6) allowed three hits and retired his last 10 batters while improving to 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA in his last six starts. John Axford worked around Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff home run in the ninth inning while recording his 30th save in 38 opportunities.
Milwaukee has won four straight games, seven of eight and 22 of 28. They remained 2½ games behind St. Louis in the race for the second NL wild card.
Pittsburgh has lost 14 of 18 and 20 of 27 to drop to 74-74, the first time it has been at .500 since it was 26-26 on June 2. Rookie Kyle McPherson (0-1) took the loss in his first major league start, giving up two runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
CARDINALS 5, ASTROS 0
ST. LOUIS — David Freese and Yadier Molina each hit their 20th home run of the season, and Lance Lynn threw 6 1-3 innings to lift the Cardinals to the win.
St. Louis now leads the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games in the race for the second wild-card spot in the National League. Milwaukee is 2½ games back.
The Cardinals have won seven straight against lowly Houston. They have won three in a row overall for the first time since a four-game streak from Aug. 21-24.
Lynn (16-7), in his second start following a demotion to the bullpen, allowed three hits in a 102-pitch stint.
Freese hit a two-run homer off Lucas Harrell (10-10) in the second inning. Molina added a solo shot in the fourth.