NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi would still rather have Alex Rodriguez in his starting lineup.
The Yankees had been riding a season-high eight-game winning streak while their star third baseman was on the disabled list with a nagging calf injury. They'd won 11 of their last 14 and pulled ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by 2½ games in the brutal AL East.
A-Rod finally returned Sunday and what happened? Blue Jays 7, Yankees 3.
"He came out of it fine," Girardi said of Rodriguez, who went 2 for 5 and drove in a run while making several nice plays at third. "He hasn't played in a while, but there were no issues."
Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells each hit two-run homers and John Buck also went deep for Toronto, which snapped its own three-game skid. The three long balls gave the homer-happy Blue Jays a major league-leading 208 on the season. The franchise record is 244 home runs, set in 2004.
"It's a great win for us," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "Today was a good win."
Rodriguez had been out since Aug. 20 with a strained left calf and was eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday. Girardi thought about giving him an extra day, but A-Rod said he felt fine after a simulated game Saturday and taking batting practice in the indoor cage Sunday.
The three-time AL MVP produced some offense for New York, but he also grounded out with a runner aboard in the first inning, dribbled one back to the pitcher with two on in the third, and struck out looking with a runner on third base to end the game.
"It felt great. It felt great to be in the box," Rodriguez said afterward. "I haven't hit for a long time, so I'm just trying to feel my way. But I felt pretty good."
The biggest issue early on for Rodriguez wasn't so much his ailing body as Brett Cecil (12-7), who's been a pain for New York all season. The Blue Jays starter survived 6 1/3 innings to improve to 3-0 in five tries against the team with the best record in the majors.
"I've had some good games against these guys this year," Cecil said. "It helps and it hurts you to see these guys a lot, because they see you a lot too. But as long as you make pitches."
Cecil also managed to beat Phil Hughes (16-7) for the second time in just over a week.
The Yankees' young right-hander allowed Hill's two-run homer in the first and Well's two-run shot in the third, putting him in another early hole. Hill added a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Buck went deep in the sixth and Wells walked with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Hughes wound up allowing seven hits and matched a season high by giving up six runs. It was also the third time in four starts he's allowed at least five earned runs against Toronto.
"It's almost always about location," Hughes said. "A fastball right in the middle of the plate on 0-2? That's probably the worst pitch you can make, and I did it a couple times today."
The Yankees barely threatened on offense, and each time they did Cecil shut them down.
In the sixth, Marcus Thames reached base on a fielder's choice and went to second on a wild pitch, before Jorge Posada's double made it 6-2. This time, Cecil got Curtis Granderson to fly out and then struck out Golson to end the inning.
Rodriguez added his RBI single off reliever Casey Janssen in the seventh, but Thames popped up with two runners on base to end the inning. The Blue Jays bullpen held on from there.
- The Yankees' Mark Teixeira walked three times. He also made an unassisted double play at first base in the ninth.
- Yankees OF Nick Swisher (left knee) was kept out of the starting lineup but pinch hit in the eighth. He grounded into a fielder's choice.
- The Blue Jays snapped a three-game skid while improving to 8-7 against New York this season.