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Must C Classic: Rivera ties all-time saves record

TORONTO -- As far as personal satisfaction goes, the Yankees' 7-6 win over the Blue Jays did a number. Alex Rodriguez proved he can hit for power with an ailing thumb and a new bat grip, Curtis Granderson reached 40 home runs for the first time in his career and, most prominently, Mariano Rivera notched his 601st save, tying him with Trevor Hoffman for the all-time lead.

But the Yankees were just happy to get out of Rogers Centre on Saturday with a victory. With the Red Sox's 4-3 loss to the Rays on Saturday, the Yanks' magic number to clinch a postseason berth is five, and their magic number to clinch the American League East title is eight.

"Mo's great," A-Rod said. "Today was a big save, but also a big 'W' that we needed."

The Yankees overcame a rough start by Bartolo Colon and a baserunning blunder that could've been a difference-maker with a three-run homer by A-Rod and a two-run shot by Granderson.

Then Rivera did what he's done better than any other man over the last 16 years: hurl a scoreless ninth inning to preserve a tight lead. Next up is the one Joe Girardi refers to as "the big one."

"I think it just puts the stamp, the final stamp on it -- he's the greatest closer of all time," Girardi said of a record 602. "I don't think in this room we have any question, and as I said, I don't want to take anything away from Trevor Hoffman, but when you've been around Mo as long as I have, you've seen a lot of special things."

Rivera, who hadn't pitched since reaching the exclusive 600-save club Tuesday, already has a record 42 postseason saves and sports a career regular-season ERA of 2.22. Now he needs just one more save to be the all-time leader, and if he doesn't do so on Sunday, he'll have eight chances to get the record at Yankee Stadium.

"I would love to; I would love to get it at home," Rivera said about the upcoming eight-game homestand. "But I don't think like that; I don't think about it. Again, it doesn't depend on myself. If my teammates don't score that many runs, I wouldn't pitch at all. I have no say about it until I have the opportunity about it. ... I just have to be ready for every situation."

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, the Yankees put Rivera in position for 601 with the long ball.

Down, 6-1, in the top of the sixth, New York began to get to Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez with an RBI single by Mark Teixeira. Two batters later, A-Rod -- playing his first game since Sept. 9 because of a sprained left thumb -- hit a three-run shot to left field to bring the Yankees within one.

Then, with Carlos Villanueva on the mound in the seventh, Granderson capped a 12-pitch at-bat with a two-run homer that snuck over the center-field fence and gave the Bombers their first lead.

"You have to tip your cap to Granderson," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He fouled off four different types of pitches in those seven foul balls. He kept him in the big part of the ballpark, but obviously the ball is carrying today, and he drives it out for the difference in today's game."

Granderson, being talked about as the potential American League Most Valuable Player, is having the best season of his career as the Yankees' No. 2 hitter, tying the Major League lead in RBIs (113) and ranking second in homers to Jose Bautista's 42.

"It's incredible what he's done for us this year," Girardi said.

But even more reassuring was Rodriguez's homer, one of his two hits on the day.

A-Rod had missed more than a week with a thumb injury that has bothered him for nearly a month. On Friday, hitting coach Kevin Long suggested he separate his hands by a half-inch on the bat handle so his top hand doesn't bang into the thumb when he hits.

A-Rod felt good using the new technique in batting practice Friday, and Saturday only made him more comfortable with it.

"I haven't felt that good in a long time," Rodriguez said. "My body feels energized, my knee feels really strong, and with that little tape we have in the middle, hopefully [the thumb is] not an issue.

"I said it all along, if I'm pain free, I'm able to do a lot of damage. I'm pretty comfortable with my timing in the box. I've been doing it a long time. For me, health is a very important thing."

The home runs, and solid bullpen work by five relievers, helped the Yanks overcome another rough start by Colon against the Blue Jays.

With the playoffs nearing and rotation decisions under way, Colon had his roughest outing in what has been a productive year. Pitching to rookie catcher Austin Romine, making only his second start, Colon gave up a season-high-tying six earned runs and lasted a season-low four innings.

The 38-year-old has a 7.94 ERA in five 2011 starts against the Blue Jays, the only team that has tagged him for six runs this year (also on May 23).

"I just think he didn't use his sinker enough today," Girardi said. "That's where I saw the issues early on. And then he seemed to do better in the third and got in trouble in the fourth. Is he running out of gas? I don't know, we saw a pretty good start the other day in Anaheim, so it's hard to say."

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