Hideki Matsui led off the ninth inning with a home run on Thursday to give the New York Yankees a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.
"If you watch him, he doesn't get overly excited," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Where he came from, he was counted on quite a bit."
Matsui hit 332 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants in a 10-year career in Japan before signing a US$21 million, three-year contract with New York.
He had given New York fans flashes of his ability that made him a three-time Japanese Most Valuable Player. He hit a grand slam on opening day at Yankee Stadium but slumped in May.
Matsui's performance on Thursday left him with a .299 average, 10 homers and 66 RBIs. He was the American League rookie of the month in June.
"You don't hit .350 by luck; he's a pretty good hitter," Derek Jeter said. "I think it's taken a while for him to adjust to the pitchers, but now I think he's doing it."
Matsui hit a 1-0 pitch from David Riske into the center-field bleachers. Jeter's two-run homer in the eighth off Riske (2-2) brought the Yankees back from a 4-2 deficit.
"Two pitches right down the middle, and they hit them," Riske said. "I didn't do my job tonight."
Even with new setup man Armando Benitez in the bullpen, Torre stuck with what has worked for him since 1997 by bringing in closer Mariano Rivera (4-0) to work the ninth with the score tied.
"If we didn't tie it, he was coming," Torre said of Benitez. "But we do this all the time at home. If it's tied in the ninth inning, that's Mo time."
Benitez, acquired from the Mets on Wednesday in a trade for Jason Anderson and two prospects, was warming up in the bullpen when Matsui homered.
The Yankees have won three of four and reopened a three-game lead over Boston in the AL East.
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 2
At Boston, Roy Halladay won his 14th straight decision, pitching a nine-hitter for his second complete game of the season as Toronto beat Boston Red Sox 5-2 at Fenway Park.
"Cy Young did a pretty good job against us out there," Boston manager Grady Little said on Thursday night, a glowing comparison to baseball's winningest pitcher. "He is on quite a roll."
The streak is the majors' longest since Roger Clemens won 16 consecutive decisions for the New York Yankees in 2001. Clemens also has the Toronto club record of 15, set in 1998.
"He's a special pitcher," Toronto manager Carlos Tosca said. "He probably prepares both physically and mentally as well as anybody that I've ever been around."
Orioles 2, Angels 1
At Baltimore, Rodrigo Lopez allowed five hits in seven innings and Jeff Conine homered as the Orioles ended Anaheim's five-game winning streak.
Luis Matos had two hits and an RBI for the Orioles, who improved to 5-1 against the defending world champions. Anaheim was 7-2 against Baltimore last year.
Rangers 12, Devil Rays 6
At St. Petersburg, Florida, Juan Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with four RBIs for Texas.
Gonzalez hit his 24th homer of the season, a three-run drive, and added a run-scoring double.
John Thomson (7-9) allowed three runs and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings, striking out nine as he won his third straight decision.
Twins 6, Athletics 2
At Minneapolis, Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski each drove in two runs and Rick Reed pitched seven solid innings as Minnesota ended an eight-game losing streak.
Royals 7, Mariners 1