Looking to get back on track in their march toward a ninth straight AL East title, the New York Yankees begin their final road trip of the season Monday night with a matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays.
New York, which owns an AL-best 90-59 record, missed a chance to move closer to another crown when it was swept by second-place Boston in a day-night doubleheader Sunday. The Yankees’ magic number remained at four.
“Sooner or later, we are going to clinch this thing,” center fielder Johnny Damon said.
It was a rough day for New York in many ways, though, as it tuned up for the postseason.
The Yankees bullpen gave up seven runs and six hits over six innings in the two games, one day after working 7 1-3 innings in Saturday’s doubleheader.
Derek Jeter sat out the opener and then went 0-for-4 in the second game, ending his hitting streak at 25 games, he longest by a Yankee since Joe Gordon’s 29-game run in 1942. Jeter’s average fell to .341, three points behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, the AL leader.
The Yankees’ seven-game road trip will be played entirely on artificial turf, with four games at Tampa Bay beginning Friday.
As a result, Hideki Matsui will not play the outfield until New York’s final homestand. Matsui has returned from a broken left wrist suffered May 11 that sidelined him for four months, but manager Joe Torre has yet to use him in the field as he tries to protect the left fielder from reinjuring himself.
Matsui has started five games at designated hitter since his return Tuesday, and is 7-for-18 since coming back.
After using their top four starters over the last two days, the Yankees will go with Darrell Rasner (2-0, 0.77 ERA) on three days’ rest Monday. Rasner will make his second start of the year and third of his career, an outing made necessary by the uncertain status of Cory Lidle.
Lidle is being skipped due to tendinitis in his right index finger, a development that appears to have greatly improved Jaret Wright’s chances to be the fourth starter in New York’s postseason rotation.
Rasner earned his first career victory in his first start of year Sept. 3 against Minnesota, giving up one run and four hits over six innings in a 10-1 victory.
The right-hander, who has never faced Toronto, worked four scoreless innings of relief Thursday in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay.
New York is 7-5 against Toronto (79-70) this year, but 2-4 at Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays are seeking to win five straight for the first time since June 27-July 1. Toronto completed a three-game sweep of last-place Tampa Bay with a 5-3 victory Sunday.
Shortstop Aaron Hill continued his hot hitting with a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning. Hill is batting .322 since May 17, raising his average from .197 to .290.
“That was the toughest part of my career so far. Hopefully, it doesn’t get much tougher because I was really going through some stuff the first couple of months,” Hill said. “I stuck with it and worked hard. Eventually, things started falling for me.”
All three Blue Jays starters earned victories over the weekend, and none allowed more than three runs.
Toronto is hoping for a similar effort from A.J. Burnett (8-7, 3.90) on Monday. Burnett is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven home outings this year.
The right-hander, who had two stints on the disabled list this year, is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts against the Yankees in 2006.
New York’s Bobby Abreu is 12-for-32 (.375) against Burnett, who Abreu faced regularly while he played for Philadelphia and Burnett pitched for Florida.