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TOR@NYY: Sierra belts a two-run homer to left field

NEW YORK -- The Bronx hasn't been a friendly place to the Blue Jays. Toronto, which has lost 14 of its last 17 games in New York, was swept for the second time since the All-Star break on its division rival's home field.

After starters Henderson Alvarez and Ricky Romero combined to allow four runs in losing efforts in Wednesday's day-night doubleheader, Aaron Laffey surrendered that many in the fourth inning alone on Thursday night, which was too large a deficit for the Blue Jays to overcome.

Laffey and Brad Lincoln were touched for seven runs in the fourth, while the Blue Jays left the tying run at the plate in the eighth in a 10-7 loss to New York in front of 40,511 at Yankee Stadium.

"When you are down that number of runs that early in the game, that's a big hole to climb out of," manager John Farrell said.

Toronto got on the board first and had an early 2-1 lead after three innings, but squandered an opportunity to build on that in the third when some over-aggressive baserunning by Anthony Gose backfired.

With one out and Colby Rasmus at the plate, Gose was easily thrown out trying to steal third base by Yankees catcher Russell Martin. Rasmus and the next three batters reached, but the Blue Jays could only manage one run that inning despite putting five men on.

The decision to run was Gose's.

"Making the second out at third base, he is trying to be aggressive there, we're trying to put some pressure on them," Farrell said. "We are looking to make some things happen. With Colby at the plate, [Edwin Encarnacion] to follow, it's easy to second-guess that right now."

The following inning, the Yankees flexed their offensive muscle and erupted for seven runs, capped off by Nick Swisher's seventh career grand slam, putting New York ahead, 8-2, before the Blue Jays recorded a single out.

Laffey had trouble commanding the ball from the start, and in the fourth, it finally caught up to him.

He started the inning by issuing a walk to Martin, who then stole second, then the next batter, Curtis Granderson, reached on an error to put runners at the corners. The lefty proceeded to walk one more before his fate was sealed on a two-run double by Ichiro Suzuki.

It marked the second consecutive start that Laffey didn't make it out of the fourth. He lasted three-plus innings, while allowing five runs (four earned) on two hits. Laffey matched a career high with five walks and hasn't won in his last six starts.

"It has been a problem my last couple innings, throwing the ball well the first couple innings and losing that command and falling behind in counts and walking guys," said Laffey, who fell to 3-6 and saw his ERA rise to 4.80.

Laffey felt when he was able to find the strike zone, which was seldom the case, his stuff was sharp with good movement. Despite the rough patch he is going through, he is confident he will be able to snap out of it.

"I have shown when I don't walk guys and I'm still aggressive in the zone, I have really good outings. So I just need to get back to pounding the zone and being aggressive in the zone," Laffey said.

His replacement, Lincoln, didn't fair much better. He issued a walk, then allowed an RBI single to Derek Jeter before Swisher's 21st home run of the season put New York in the driver's seat.

"Give them credit, that's a deep lineup and they are explosive as we saw tonight," Farrell said. "Obviously Swisher's grand slam the big blow in that inning, but we contined to battle, continued to put men on base."

The battling began with two outs the following inning. After Adam Lind drew a walk, Moises Sierra launched his fifth homer of the season off Yankees starter Phil Hughes to make it 8-4, but New York tacked on two runs in the bottom half of the frame to once again take a six-run lead.

"Seemingly every time we would score, they would answer right back and that's the biggest thing," Farrell said. "Any time you try to get a little momentum, you are looking for a zero to be put back up when we go out and take the field."

Hughes went five innings, allowing four runs on four hits while matching a season-high with nine strikeouts, four of which came in the fourth. The righty joined A.J. Burnett as the only Yankees to strike out four batters in one frame.

The win was the Yankees' fifth straight, which moved them one game ahead of the Orioles in the American League East, while Hughes won his team-leading 16th game of the season.

"We need to continue to play good baseball because the other teams behind us are doing the same thing," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "It's good to see. If you're going to heat up, this is the time of year to do it."

Down, 10-4, entering the eighth, the Blue Jays refused to quit.

Kelly Johnson led off the frame with a homer, his 15th of the year and second extra-base hit of the contest, to make it 10-5. Toronto added two more runs before Encarnacion singled to left to bring Lind, the potential tying run, to the plate.

Lind fell behind 1-2 before Joba Chamberlain got the first baseman to fly out to right field to end the threat.

Blue Jays hitters struck out 15 times for the third time this season.

Toronto, which has lost seven of its last nine games, continues its 10-game trip with a three-game set against Tampa Bay starting Friday.

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