NEW YORK -- Their closer gave up the go-ahead run, and the winning hit came from a player who was not supposed to get an at-bat.
New York Yankees manager Joe Torre would have preferred an easier route to the win that moved New York into sole possession of the AL wild-card lead.
Felix Escalona's bases-loaded single with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night. New York is percentage points ahead of Cleveland for the wild-card lead.
"It was a good game all the way around, and I don't ever want to play it again," Torre said.
Hideki Matsui hit a tying homer in the ninth, and Derek Jeter had two hits in his return to the lineup for the Yankees (69-55), who scored in each of the final four innings to win for the ninth time in 12 games and reach 14 games over .500 for the first time this season.
Escalona, who got his first hit of the season Monday, went in to play first base after Tino Martinez was pinch run for in the eighth inning. Torre inserted Escalona into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, which meant he was the seventh batter up in the ninth.
"Shows you how smart the manager is," Torre said. "You put him in that spot so he won't have to come up."
New York, which didn't lead until the final hit, had been tied for the wild-card lead with Oakland, which lost at Detroit. Cleveland (70-56) is less than a percentage point behind the Yankees.
"You can't blow leads," Towers said. "I blew two and we blew four."
"I wasn't thinking home run at all against Batista," Matsui said. "I was just trying to get on. It was definitely a huge win for us."
Jorge Posada walked with one out, and Robinson Cano walked with two outs. Batista then intentionally walked Jeter to load the bases for Escalona, who singled to center on an 0-2 pitch for what he said was his first game-winning hit.
"This is the first time, ever," he said. "I still can't believe it. I've never felt this way before."
Now that Escalona has made a name for himself, maybe the Yankees will even learn how to spell it. Called up earlier this month, the nameplate in his locker still reads "Escolona."
"Keep it the same," he said with a laugh.
After New York tied it in the eighth, Orlando Hudson singled off Rivera with one out when Escalona came off first base to grab Jeter's high throw. Hudson took second on an infield out and scored on Reed Johnson's single, beating Matsui's throw from left.
Al Leiter allowed three runs and six hits with one walk and five strikeouts in seven-plus innings. The left-hander threw 121 pitches -- 50 more than Towers needed to get the same amount of outs. Towers gave up two runs and six hits, not enough for Toronto to halt its slide.
"You've got to score a bunch and you've got to pitch lights out," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And Josh did that."
Leiter had retired eight in a row before Wells hit his 23rd homer with one out in the fourth. Gregg Zaun bounced an RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead later in the inning.
Towers allowed a leadoff single to Jeter, then retired 15 in a row before Martinez singled on the first pitch of the sixth and scored on Bernie Williams' sacrifice fly. Posada hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh, but Shea Hillenbrand hit an RBI single against Tanyon Sturtze in the eighth for a 3-2 lead.
Williams' two-out run-scoring single retied the score in the bottom half.
- Jeter missed the series opener because of a jammed right thumb. He said the injury wasn't what kept him from playing Monday. "I was available to play yesterday. He wanted me to have the day off," Jeter said of manager Joe Torre.
- Toronto also lost five in a row from April 20-25.
- Hudson made a diving stop in the outfield grass of Williams' hard grounder to second in the fourth.