TORONTO -- Russell Martin has tried to take pride in not bringing his at-bats behind the plate during what has been a mostly disappointing season, but the Yankees have no complaints about how he's swinging now.
Martin continued his September surge by launching a big three-run homer to break open Friday's 11-4 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, helping inch the Yankees closer to their goal of securing the American League East title.
New York's victory dropped its magic number for clinching a postseason berth to two and a division title to five, but the Yankees and second-place Orioles remain separated by just one game in the AL East, as Baltimore posted a 9-1 win over the Red Sox that the Yankees couldn't help but notice on the scoreboard.
"It really doesn't affect how you go about your business," Martin said. "Obviously, we want them to lose as much as possible, but they don't really seem like they want to give in. It's going to be coming down to the wire, I think."
Playing in front of family members and friends in his native Canada, Martin blasted his career-high 20th homer of the season in the sixth inning off Toronto reliever Jason Frasor, helping support Hiroki Kuroda's 15th victory of the campaign.
"I'm just trying to make a bad season better," Martin said. "We're playing to win at this point, so anything I can do to help the team win, that's my main focus. This is the type of baseball that I enjoy. It's high intensity, and this is why you play the game."
"He's been great," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Martin. "He's been really, really good for us. That three-run homer really kind of opened up [the game] a little bit. They seemed to have runners on every inning, so they had opportunities to tie the game up. He's had a big September."
Martin's homer, his sixth blast in a month that has seen him drive in 16 runs after he collected just 36 RBIs in his first 107 games, highlighted a four-run sixth inning in which the Yankees sent nine men to the plate.
That supplemented a Yankees attack that produced three runs in 3 2/3 innings against Toronto starter Chad Jenkins. Nick Swisher's two-run double opened the scoring in the first inning, and Derek Jeter pushed a run across with a double-play grounder in the second.
"In general, I think we approached this game as a must-win type of game," Swisher said. "Two different teams from yesterday to today -- the way that we came out, the intensity we had. Hiro battled his tail off for us."
Kuroda permitted just one run in 5 1/3 innings but was by no means dominant. The Blue Jays helped Kuroda by running themselves out of a couple of runs in the first and second innings, as Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar made ill-advised outs on the basepaths.
Lawrie was caught between second and third bases in the first inning as Swisher whipped a throw to Jeter from first base, while Martin and third baseman Alex Rodriguez combined to nail Escobar too far from third base on a pickoff play.
"Our defense kind of picked [Kuroda] up a little bit the first two innings," Girardi said. "You look up and they have three doubles, five hits total, and a walk and don't score a run in two innings."
Finally enjoying the run support that eluded him for so much of the year, Kuroda was able to squirm out of trouble often. Acknowledging that he doesn't feel quite 100 percent after logging a career-high 212 2/3 innings, Kuroda scattered 10 hits while walking two.
"I don't think any of my pitches today were really crisp," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I was trying to find the zone, but I really couldn't in the beginning.
Colby Rasmus slugged a solo home run off Kuroda in the fifth inning, the outfielder's 23rd of the season. Anthony Gose knocked home Kelly Johnson with a fielder's choice in the sixth inning for the second run charged to Kuroda.
Girardi said that he is not concerned about Kuroda's recent struggles and expects a crisp outing next time out, but Kuroda acknowledged that he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild decided to alter his routine, skipping a between-starts bullpen session to save bullets.
"I had to grind out there," Kuroda said. "I tried to minimize all the damage. I was able to go through five-plus innings, and I was happy that our team won today."
Raul Ibanez knocked in the Yankees' eighth run with a seventh-inning RBI single facing Joel Carreno, and Adam Lind trimmed the deficit with a two-run homer off David Phelps in the home half, Lind's 11th of the season.
Eric Chavez completed the scoring with an opposite-field two-run homer, his 15th, in the ninth. Girardi opted to use the lopsided score to give his bullpen work, pitching David Robertson, Cody Eppley and Rafael Soriano in the final two innings.
"You don't want to give these guys too many days off, that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "These are the games you have to make sure you win."