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NYY@TOR: Ichiro drives in five on a pair of hits

TORONTO -- The Yankees have struggled to get on a roll in the second half and distance themselves from their American League East counterparts.

But it looks like they are beginning to click at the right time, and facing an injury-ravaged Blue Jays team that they had no trouble handling in the Bronx in July didn't hurt, either.

Freddy Garcia turned in another strong performance and was backed by a collective effort at the plate -- including five RBIs from Ichiro Suzuki -- that helped guide the Yankees to a 10-4 win over the Blue Jays in the first of a three-game set at Rogers Centre on Friday.

"I like the way we are playing, I like the fight in our guys, and I like how they go about their business," manager Joe Girardi said. "We were kind of up and down and not winning series ... it's a better feeling, there is no doubt about it.

"I don't worry a whole lot about our guys, because they know what it takes and know how to bounce back."

Garcia has been one of those guys.

Since rejoining the Yankees' rotation in July, the 35-year-old has posted a 4-3 record with a 3.83 ERA. In seven of his eight starts over that stretch -- including Friday -- he has allowed three runs or less.

It is quite a difference from the 14 games prior, four of which were starts, when he sported a 6.39 ERA.

"I felt fine, normal," said Garcia, who went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while walking none and striking out four. "I commanded my pitches today, had a good changeup today. Hopefully I can continue pitching the way I've been pitching."

Garcia really only had trouble with Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson, who drove in both Toronto runs off him, with a solo homer in the second and an RBI double in the fourth.

After Johnson's double, Garcia finished his outing by retiring the last eight batters he faced. It was a very economical game for Garcia, who needed just 16 pitches to get through his final two innings of work, and 78 total on the night, 51 of which were thrown for strikes.

Yankees catcher Russell Martin can point to one thing, specifically, that has allowed Garcia to flourish.

"His velocity is up, and when his velocity is up, most of his other pitches are crisper, and that's really the big difference," said Martin, who went 1-for-3 with a run scored. "His velocity was down when he was getting banged around a little bit, and now that he has gotten velocity back, he is much better."

Garcia, who entered the game with a 6.89 career ERA at Rogers Centre and admitted that he hates pitching in Toronto, exited with a 3-2 lead before the Yankees broke things open late by scoring three in the eighth and four in the ninth.

Mark Teixeira hit a solo homer -- his 22nd of the year and second in as many days -- off Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar before Ichiro added a two-out, two-run single to make it a 6-2 game.

Ichiro had already driven in a run in the second inning off Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero, and came back up in the ninth with a prime opportunity to do more damage.

The veteran outfielder, who was playing center field for the first time since 2008, capped off the four-run frame, which saw the Yankees send nine men to the plate, with a two-run double to make it a 10-3 game.

Ichiro matched a career high with five RBIs, which he last did against the Royals on Aug. 17, 2004, while playing for Seattle. It was the first time Ichiro had driven in more than two runs in a game since July 2010.

"Every day I come out and just do my best, and hopefully the things that I do will be good," Ichiro said through interpreter Allen Turner.

"Sometimes I get up to the plate and they say ... 'Ichiro Suzuki for the Yankees,' and that kind of takes me a while, to [think] 'Oh, I'm on the Yankees.' Everybody on the Yankees has been great, I play with a bunch of great guys."

Girardi likes the way Ichiro has handled himself since the trade from Seattle, especially since he says there are always heightened expectations on a player to perform when they join the Yankees.

"I don't think it has really bothered him. I think he has been through a lot in his life, and it has probably helped him in this situation," Girardi said.

Ichiro recorded two of New York's 12 hits -- one of four players with a multihit game -- but only four were off Romero, who was solid despite taking the loss.

Romero, who lasted seven innings and allowed three runs, limited the early damage but fell to 8-9, the first time he has been under .500 this year. Over his last nine starts, the lefty is 0-8 with a 7.26 ERA.

The Yankees have won three consecutive games for the second time since the All-Star break -- the other came in mid-July, when they swept the Blue Jays in the Bronx.

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