New York (88-65) had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 5-4, 14-inning loss on Friday in the opener of this four-game set. The Yankees scored four times in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game, but managed only one hit in the extra innings.
The loss dropped New York 2 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East race. The Yankees’ magic number to clinch at least the wild card also remained at five since Detroit beat Kansas City earlier on Friday.
“I was proud of how we bounced back in the ninth inning. It’s just disappointing how it ended,” New York manager Joe Torre said.
Some sloppy defense by Toronto paved the way for the Yankees’ rally and cost Roy Halladay his 16th victory as second baseman Aaron Hill’s bad throw to first led to three unearned runs in the ninth. Gregg Zaun’s solo homer off Brian Bruney put the Blue Jays ahead for good.
“I wasn’t going to get cheated,” Zaun said. “We haven’t made too many comebacks in this ballpark, especially after blowing a lead like that.”
New York used seven relievers to pitch the final seven innings, and will likely want a long outing from Hughes (4-3, 4.75 ERA), who has pitched at least six innings in four of his last six starts.
The right-hander won his second straight start on Monday by yielding two runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-5 victory over Baltimore. Hughes gave up three straight hits to start the game, but settled down for his first career win at Yankee Stadium.
Hughes made his major league debut against Toronto on April 26, allowing four runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 6-0 loss. He defeated the Blue Jays on Sept. 11 by yielding two runs and three hits over six innings in a 9-2 victory.
Hughes is pitching since New York scratched two starters for this game. First, rookie Ian Kennedy was passed over after he felt tightness in his back during a bullpen session this week. Roger Clemens was going to be bumped up one day to pitch in Kennedy’s place, but then was pushed back because his left hamstring is bothering him.
“We’re just taking the safe route and giving him a couple days,” Torre said of Clemens.
Toronto (78-75) has won four straight, and continues to impact the divisional race. The Blue Jays entered this series after sweeping three home games from Boston.
For New York, Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-6 on Friday and drove in his career-high 143rd run with a ninth-inning single. Rodriguez, though, remains in a 5-for-35 (.143) slump with 12 strikeouts over his last nine games.
Dustin McGowan (11-9, 3.84) takes the mound for Toronto after he pitched a five-hitter for his second career complete game in a 6-1 victory over the Red Sox on Monday. He did not issue a walk for only the third time this season and struck out nine.
“Dustin was tremendous,” Toronto’s Frank Thomas said. “When he’s prepared mentally, he’s as good as any starter in baseball. I know that’s a bold statement, but it is true. His stuff can totally dominate a team. When he’s on, he’s on. I don’t care how good the hitters are.”
The right-hander has struck out 27 over his last three games, and is 7-1 with a 2.23 ERA in nine day starts this year.
McGowan is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season and has limited Rodriguez to one hit in eight at-bats.