Toronto manager Jim Fregosi has his team ahead of the pack in the race for the AL wild card. That's really not what he's looking for.
"Call me old fashioned," Fregosi said after Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees. "You play to win the division."
Hamilton (4-6) cruised through the first five innings, scattering three hits and facing just two over the minimum before Joe Girardi led off the sixth with a home run to right field to tie it 1-1.
The homer was Girardi's first of the season and first since July 9, 1998 and broke his 77-game homerless drought. It was his second career home run off Hamilton in 11 at-bats.
"There's no mystery about it," Hamilton said of a second-half performance that has seen him win three of four starts. "The first half, I wasn't healthy."
The right-hander made two starts to open the season, but was then placed on the disabled list for over a month with a sore shoulder. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked none.
"In spring training, he hurt his arm and didn't say anything," Fregosi said. "He tried to pitch out of it. He's just getting back into pitching shape now."
The Blue Jays quickly recaptured the lead. With one out in the seventh, Homer Bush doubled down the right-field line off David Cone (10-6). After Shannon Stewart grounded out, Batista, who had struck out in his three previous at-bats, followed with an RBI single to right.
"I didn't want to think that much about it," Batista said about the strikeouts. "I just wanted to concentrate on putting the ball in play."
The win pulled Toronto to within five games of New York in the AL East and 1 ½ games ahead of Boston in the wild-card race.
Hamilton, acquired from San Diego in the offseason, was more concerned about the future than the present, however.
"Being in the playoffs the past three years made me realize its not where you are at the beginning of August, but at the end of September."
New York threatened to tie it in the eighth when Scott Brosius led off with a double. After Girardi sacrificed him to third, John Frascatore induced Chuck Knoblauch to fly out to shallow center and struck out Derek Jeter.
The Blue Jays added an insurance run in the ninth on Batista's RBI single before Billy Koch pitched a perfect inning for his 22nd save.
Cone set the side down in order to open the game, but Toronto got on the board in the second. David Segui led off and hit an 0-2 pitch into the right-field stands for his 10th home run and first since joining the club July 31 from Seattle.
Cone went 6 2-3 innings, allowed seven hits and struck out seven.
"They're a good ball club," Cone said. "They're impressive and they can beat you in a lot of ways."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed