All of a sudden, the hill the New York Yankees have to climb to reach a 13th straight postseason doesn’t seem as steep.
The surging Yankees look for a sixth straight win Thursday afternoon when they try to complete a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
New York (48-44) moved a season-high four games over .500 by rallying for a 6-1 victory on Wednesday. The Yankees were blanked for six innings before Alex Rodriguez triggered a four-run rally in the seventh with a go-ahead, two-run double.
“They’re on a roll right now. They weren’t going to stay down all year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
The Yankees moved within seven games of AL East leader Boston - their smallest deficit since May 12 - and six games of wild-card leader Cleveland. They trailed the Red Sox by 10 games at the All-Star break and the Indians by 8 1/2.
“We need to make something out of this run,” manager Joe Torre said.
New York is in position to sweep four games at home against Toronto (45-49) for the first time since Sept. 18-21, 1995, thanks to another strong effort by the bullpen, which gave up one hit in three scoreless innings on Wednesday. Yankees relievers are 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in the series.
The bullpen is a major reason why the Blue Jays are 3-for-30 with runners in scoring position in the series and have left 37 on base.
“Playing this team, you let them mill around a little bit, they’re going to make you pay. You have to get the runs when you have the opportunities,” Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay said.
New York’s Hideki Matsui has turned in five straight multihit efforts, going 10-for-22 (.455) in that span. Matsui has a season-high 13-game hitting streak in which he’s batting .385 (20-for-52).
Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang (10-4, 3.43) is 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his last nine starts. He was solid in his first outing after the All-Star break, allowing three runs over six innings to beat Tampa Bay 6-4 on Saturday.
The right-hander allowed three runs in the first inning before bouncing back. It’s the only inning in Wang’s last 19 1-3 that he’s allowed any runs.
Wang is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA in four career starts against Toronto, which hasn’t faced him this season.
He’s limited Blue Jays All-Star Alex Rios to a single in six at-bats. Rios went 4-for-5 in Wednesday’s loss and is hitting .400 (12-for-30) this year against the Yankees.
Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan (5-5, 5.05) has alternated wins and losses in his last six outings after losing at Boston on Saturday. He matched a season high by allowing six runs over five innings in a 9-4 defeat.
McGowan, however, has excelled in day games this year, going 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA in five starts. He’s just 1-5 with a 7.29 ERA in night starts.
The right-hander is facing the Yankees for the second time this year after beating them by yielding two runs over 7 2-3 innings in a 7-2 home win on May 28. Before that outing, he was 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA against New York in five appearances, including one start.