The Cuban right-hander had been unbeaten in three starts before Friday’s 10-5 meltdown in Boston in which he allowed seven runs and six hits in just three innings. He struck out six and walked one.
“Every pitch I threw in the strike zone was up, and they’re a good hitting team,” Contreras said through his interpreter. “In the first inning, I may have been a little too cautious. After that, I just didn’t have good control.”
Out since June 7 with a strained right shoulder, Contreras replaced struggling Jeff Weaver in the rotation on Aug. 24 against Baltimore and picked up right where he left off before he was hurt.
Contreras tossed seven scoreless innings against the Orioles to improve to 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts.
However, those victories came against Detroit, Cincinnati and Baltimore, teams with losing records. Friday’s outing was viewed as his first true test.
“We were all anxious to see what would happen,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “This was a good test for him.”
After taking two of three from the Red Sox last weekend, the Yankees continued their struggles against the Blue Jays with Wednesday’s 4-3 loss. Coupled with Boston’s 5-4, 10-inning win over the Chicago White Sox, New York’s AL East lead was cut to three games.
Greg Myers went 3-for-4 for the Blue Jays, who have won nine of their last 12 against the Yankees.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Blue Jays - 3rd place, 14 1/2 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Contreras (4-2, 5.09 ERA). In five relief appearances against the Blue Jays this season, Contreras is 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Cory Lidle (12-11, 6.08 ERA). Lidle snapped a three-game losing streak with Sunday’s 9-3 win over Cleveland. The right-hander, who had a 10.00 ERA during the skid, yielded two runs and five hits over 6 1-3 innings. Lidle is 6-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 career appearances, including nine starts, against the Yankees.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .322 avg.; Jason Giambi, 36 HRs and 95 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 95 runs and 31 SBs. Blue Jays - Vernon Wells, .315 avg.; Carlos Delgado, 34 HRs, 123 RBIs and 103 runs; Hinske, 7 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jays, 9-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - SS Jeter, who sustained a slight strain of his left oblique muscle Sunday, won’t play Thursday and isn’t expected back for this weekend’s series against Boston. … Three of the Yankees’ main offensive producers—1B Giambi, CF Bernie Williams and LF Hideki Matsui—went a combined 1-for-10 Wednesday, with Giambi getting the lone hit—a solo homer. The trio is hitting just .146 (21-for-144) in the last 14 games. … The Yankees are averaging seven runs in RHP Contreras’ four starts. … Blue Jays - RHP Lidle has won two straight and three of his last four starts against the Yankees. … OF Frank Catalanotto is hitting .429 (21-for-49) over his last 16 games. … Toronto has won just five of its last 25 games when its opponent scores first.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 44-26 on the road; Blue Jays - 31-36 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - SS Jeter (oblique), day-to-day; OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Blue Jays - LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL.