NEW YORK -- Jesus Montero reached across the plate and sent a 93 mph pitch about a dozen rows deep into the right-field seats for his first major league home run, a tiebreaking solo shot in the fifth. A Labor Day crowd of 45,069 at Yankee Stadium coaxed him out for a curtain call.
Two innings later, he leaned for a 94 mph pitch on the outside corner and drove it 10 rows into those same right-field seats, a little bit more toward the foul line. He had another opposite-field homer, a two-run shot. Curtain call No. 2 followed.
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Four games into his big league career, the 21-year-old catching prospect has made quite an impression. Since his debut at Boston last Thursday, he's batting .385 (5 for 13) with five runs and the three RBI.
"You don't get too giddy on one game and you don't get too down on another game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You're going to watch him over a period of time."
With Jorge Posada hitting .100 against lefties, Montero could play himself into a part-time designated hitter role during the playoffs, at the very least. While Montero projects as the Yankees' backstop of the future, Girardi is reluctant to put him behind the plate this year because he hasn't caught the New York pitching staff since spring training.
After this, pitchers will be on the lookout for Montero.
"He might have to have a little quick adjustment after this game today," said the Yankees' Andruw Jones, who boosted his own prominence at old Yankee Stadium with a pair of homers in the 1996 World Series opener.
New York increased its AL East lead to 2½ games over second-place Boston, the Yankees' largest margin since before play on July 3. New York has finished first in 38 of 42 seasons when it led on Labor Day, according to STATS LLC.
Girardi said it was too early to discuss Montero's potential postseason role. With mother Cristina and girlfriend Taneth on hand, Montero just wanted to savor the moment. The Yankees even arranged for him to get both balls back.
"I showed a little bit to the fans, to the people. Now there's more to come," said Montero, who had 18 homers this year at Triple-A. "I hope everything keeps going good. I'm not going to say tomorrow I'm going to hit two home runs again, but I'm going to try to."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter was the first to congratulate him after the initial homer. Posada persuaded Montero to take the helmet-waving curtain calls.
"Go out there and say 'Hi' to them," Montero recalled Posada telling him.
On an afternoon that featured both starting pitchers making early exits after wretched outings, Robinson Cano sparked the comeback from a 5-2 second-inning deficit with his third grand slam in less than a month.
Both of Montero's homers came off Jim Johnson (5-5), who had allowed only three coming in.
Aaron Laffey (2-1) got two outs for his first win since the Yankees claimed him off waivers from Seattle on Aug. 19. Mariano Rivera gave up Ryan Adams' two-out RBI single in the ninth, then hit Nolan Reimold with a pitch and allowed a double steal before striking out J.J. Hardy for his 38th save in 43 chances. Rivera boosted his career saves total to 597, four shy of Trevor Hoffman's record.
"He threw a cutter away," Hardy said. "I think it was off the plate a little bit but still got me chasing."
New York's Freddy Garcia (seven runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings) fell behind 1-0 in the first and 5-2 in the second, but Baltimore's Brian Matusz was chased in the bottom half. Cano connected against Chris Jakubauskas for his third slam in 24 games and seventh of his career, giving New York an 8-5 lead.
Matusz had his best start in half a season, even though he lasted just 1 1/3 innings and 46 pitches while allowing five runs, five hits and two walks, Matusz, whose ERA swelled to 9.84, had lost seven straight starts since beating Oakland on June 6.
This one may have been his last start of the season.
"We'll talk tomorrow, when emotions settle a little bit," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
- New York boosted its record in day games to 38-9 (.809). That is the best in the majors since at least 1946, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees have won eight of nine overall.
- Proctor made his first appearance for New York since July 27, 2007, also against the Orioles.
- Phil Hughes (4-5) starts for New York on Tuesday against Tommy Hunter (2-1).