With their once comfortable lead in the AL East shrinking, the New York Yankees hope to get a quality outing from Javier Vazquez when they open a three-game series with the visiting Cleveland Indians.
New York, which held a commanding 10 1/2 -game advantage over second-place Boston on Aug. 15, saw its lead shaved down to 4 1/2 after Sunday’s 6-4 loss in Toronto. Carlos Delgado homered off Mike Mussina during Toronto’s five-run seventh inning, sending the Yankees to their eighth loss in 14 games.
The surging Red Sox have reeled off 12 wins in their last 13 games, applying the type of pressure the Yankees did not anticipate feeling until October. Boston and New York still meet six more times in the regular season.
“They are playing extremely well, but we’re in the driver’s seat,” New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “This game is about runs and they are in the best run of the year.”
Rodriguez went 4-for-4 with a homer in Sunday’s loss, but New York enters this series with its smallest lead in the East since June 23.
The Yankees have received just one win from their starting pitchers in the last 15 games. Kevin Brown got that victory in New York’s 18-6 win Saturday at SkyDome.
Vazquez is hoping to help rebuild the Yankees’ lead. The right-hander is winless in two starts since an 11-4 victory over Toronto on Aug. 6, but had won three straight decisions over five outings prior to that stretch.
“Right now, I’m not doing the best job, but at least I kept the team in the game,” Vazquez said after going seven innings in New York’s 5-4 win over Cleveland last Tuesday.
The win was the third in five games for the Indians since they snapped a nine-game losing steak with a 4-3 win over the Yankees on Wednesday.