The surging Yankees seek their sixth straight win Wednesday night when they face the Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game series that has been filled with bad blood.
Any lingering hatred between the Yankees and Blue Jays seemed to have been forgotten when the teams played a relatively quiet four-game set in New York from July 16-19. It was believed Toronto might seek retaliation against Alex Rodriguez after the Yankees slugger distracted Howie Clark on a key popup late in a game on May 30, yelling at the infielder as he approached third base.
“It got me pretty good,” said Rodriguez, who was still limping after the game. “We’ll see how I wake up in the morning. It hit me in the calf straight up.”
Benches and bullpens emptied twice after Towers hit Rodriguez, who took a few steps toward the mound before he was cut off by umpire Angel Hernandez. The Yankees and Blue Jays spilled out onto the field and Toronto’s Matt Stairs had to be restrained by New York’s Andy Phillips as he tried to go after A-Rod at first base.
“It was heated,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “I’m just glad it didn’t come to blows where it could have gotten ugly.”
“We got warned,” Torre said. “I guess in his (Hernandez’s) estimation, Roger hit him on purpose. It’s automatic at that point in time if he feels that’s the case.”
Overshadowed by all the extracurricular activity was an easy 9-2 victory by the Yankees (63-50), who have won eight of nine, averaging 9.7 runs in that span. New York - a major league-best 20-7 since the All-Star break - remained one-half game behind wild card-leading Detroit.
Cabrera is batting .436 (24-for-55) with three homers and 16 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.
Frank Thomas drove in both runs for the Blue Jays (56-56), losers of six of seven to the Yankees.
New York’s Chien-Ming Wang (13-5, 3.49 ERA) can tie for the major league lead in wins if he beats Toronto while 14-game winners C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Zambrano fail to win their scheduled starts Wednesday.
Wang has won three straight starts and 10 of his last 11 decisions. The sinkerballer was very sharp again Friday in a 7-1 victory over Kansas City, allowing one run and seven hits in seven-plus innings.
Wang had won three straight starts against the Blue Jays before he gave up three runs and seven hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 3-2 home loss on July 19. He is 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA in five career starts against Toronto.
Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (12-5, 4.13) tries to win his sixth consecutive home start, having posted a 3.00 ERA in the last five. He’s won six straight decisions at home since losing to Boston on May 10, and is 8-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 outings at Rogers Centre this season.
Halladay allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings Friday in a 6-4 victory over Texas, walking two and striking out nine.
The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner was outstanding at Yankee Stadium on July 17, yielding one run and five hits in seven innings, but didn’t factor in the decision in the Jays’ 3-2 loss. Halladay is 9-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 22 starts against New York.
Jorge Posada is batting .355 (11-for-31) with one home run against Halladay.