After a much-needed win against their archrivals, the AL East-leading New York Yankees look to build on their newfound momentum as they play a makeup game with the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
New York was outscored 20-3 in the first two games of its critical weekend set with second-place Boston, but bounced back with a 3-1 victory in Sunday’s series finale, boosting its lead in the tight division race to 2 1/2 games.
“A game like this, it’s huge,” Wells said. “Those guys are coming in for the sweep—you want to try to get the momentum back, and that’s what we did today.”
Jeter was originally scheduled to come back Monday, but with the Yankees’ division lead shaved to just 1 1/2 games, the team captain was unwilling to remain on the bench for an extra day.
“I would have kept talking to (manager Joe Torre), over and over,” Jeter said. “Eventually, he’d have to cave in.”
The Yankees and Blue Jays were originally scheduled to conclude a two-game series in New York on July 22, but that game was rained out, forcing Monday’s makeup.
The Blue Jays, who took two of three from the Yankees last week at SkyDome, completed a three-game sweep in Detroit with Sunday’s 8-0 victory.
The Blue Jays are two games above .500 for the first time since July 29.
STANDINGS: Blue Jays - 3rd place, 13 1/2 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Kelvim Escobar (10-8, 4.30 ERA). Escobar has won five of his last seven decisions, but did not receive one in Toronto’s 4-3 win over New York on Wednesday. The right-hander yielded three runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings, striking out seven and walking three. Escobar is 4-5 with six saves and a 5.08 ERA in 29 career appearances, including 10 starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.22 ERA). Mussina opposed Escobar on Wednesday, but also did not factor in the decision, allowing three runs—two earned—and six hits over six innings, striking out eight and walking two. The veteran right-hander has won five of his last six decisions. He is 16-9 with a 3.08 ERA and six complete games in 31 career starts against Toronto.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Blue Jays - Vernon Wells, .313 avg.; Carlos Delgado, 34 HRs, 124 RBIs and 104 runs; Eric Hinske, 7 SBs. Yankees - Derek Jeter, .322 avg.; Jason Giambi, 36 HRs and 95 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 97 runs and 32 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 9-9.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Blue Jays - OF Catalanotto was mired in a 1-for-23 slump before reaching base in all five of his plate appearances Sunday. … 1B Delgado is hitting just .197 (15-for-76) for his career against RHP Mussina. … RHP Escobar boasts a 7-1 mark with a 2.18 ERA in 17 appearances, including 10 starts, on the road this year. Yankees - RHP Mariano Rivera has converted 33 of 39 save opportunities. … 1B Giambi is in an 0-for-15 slump and has just one hit in his last 40 at-bats. … New York won the season series 10-9. If the Yankees and Red Sox finish with the same record and the wild card is assured of coming from the AL East, New York would win the division.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jays - 38-33 on the road; Yankees - 40-30 at home.
INJURIES: Blue Jays - LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (shoulder), 60-day DL. Yankees - OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.