The New York Yankees are close to clinching their 13th straight playoff berth. They’ll have a good shot at moving closer on Monday, when Andy Pettitte takes the mound in the finale of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
New York (90-65), which has a 5 1/2-game lead over Detroit in the wild card race, has won 14 of 17 games to reduce its magic number to two for securing another playoff spot. The Yankees, who haven’t missed the postseason since 1993, can advance with win in this contest combined with a Tigers loss at home to Minnesota.
The Yankees’ surge is partially due to Pettitte’s recent success. They’ve won nine of the left-hander’s 10 starts since the beginning of August as he’s gone 8-1 with a 3.12 ERA in that stretch.
Pettitte (14-8, 3.79 ERA) held Baltimore to one run in 7 2-3 innings of a 2-1 victory on Wednesday. It was his 200th career win, and his fifth in his last six starts at Yankee Stadium, where he’s 8-3 with a 4.15 ERA this season.
“Any time he takes the mound, you expect good things,” New York shortstop Derek Jeter told the Yankees’ official Web site. “He’s not going to be perfect, but you expect it when he goes out there.”
Pettitte has also helped New York pull within striking distance of capturing a share of its 10th straight AL East crown as it trails Boston by 1 1/2 games. The Yankees have seven games remaining on their schedule—one more than the Red Sox, who are off Monday.
“We’re right there and, I mean, we want to win it,” Pettitte said. “We would like to win this division but just thankful we’re playing good.”
Pettitte is taking the spot in the rotation left by seven-time AL Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, whose scheduled start was pushed back to Tuesday. Clemens tweaked his hamstring while running Thursday.
Pettitte is 16-8 with a 4.10 ERA in 32 career games - 31 starts - against the Blue Jays, including 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts this year.
The Yankees had another pitcher record a milestone victory on Sunday, when Mike Mussina held Toronto to three runs over seven innings of New York’s 7-5 victory. It was the right-hander’s 250th career win and third in as many starts.
The Blue Jays (78-77) blew a 3-0 lead and lost for the 10th time in their last 14 games against the Yankees. They’ll try to bounce back behind A.J. Burnett (9-7, 3.40), who’s going for his fifth win in six decisions.
Since returning from a six-week layoff due to a sore shoulder, Burnett is 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA in eight starts. The right-hander struck out 11 in his 4-3 win over Boston on Tuesday, allowing three runs and nine hits in 8 2-3 innings.
“Whether we’re in (the playoff race) or out of it, these guys don’t give up,” Burnett told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “That’s one positive thing about this team.”
Burnett is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees, including 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two starts in 2007.
Jeter and New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez are each 5-for-14 (.357) against Burnett, and they’ve combined for three home runs against him.
Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas left Saturday’s game with a sore knee and is day-to-day. He’s batting .396 (19-for-48) with three home runs and four doubles in his career against Pettitte.