The first victory of the season always seems to be the toughest. Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have gotten that out of the way, they will try to leave Yankee Stadium with a series victory as their three-game set concludes Thursday against the New York Yankees.
The Blue Jays (1-1) entered the win column with a 5-2 victory Wednesday. Vernon Wells hit a two-run homer, an encouraging sign he has fully recovered from shoulder surgery last September, and A.J. Burnett pitched six-plus solid innings.
“The first one is always tough, especially here. They’re never out of it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “But we threw an awful lot of pitching at ‘em.”
The Blue Jays turn to Dustin McGowan (12-10, 4.08) to notch their first series win at Yankee Stadium since winning two of three games Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2006. The right-hander won four of his final six starts in 2007 to secure a spot in the rotation this year and finished tied for second in wins as well as second in strikeouts and innings pitched.
McGowan wasn’t with the team Wednesday after being sent back to the team hotel to get some rest to combat flu-like symptoms. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said McGowan should be able to start, but Shaun Marcum would be the emergency starter if McGowan can’t go.
“He’s sick, so we just wanted to get him out of this weather,” Gibbons told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “We hope he’s still all right to go start tomorrow. If he can’t go, we’ll just go with Marcum, because it’s his fifth day anyway.”
McGowan went 2-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four starts versus the Yankees last season, but struggled in losing the final two. He was reached for 10 runs and nine hits with nine walks in only 9 1-3 innings of those games, and is 2-2 with a 5.63 ERA in five starts and nine overall appearances against New York.
After delivering in the final month of last season for the Yankees (1-1), 21-year-old Phil Hughes (5-3, 4.46) is New York’s No. 4 starter in 2008. The right-hander was promoted in late April as a rookie due to injuries in the rotation, and made only two starts before missing three months with a strained hamstring.
This time around, Hughes is looking forward to making contributions for an entire season.
“It’s really a different feeling,” Hughes told the Yankees’ official Web site after his final spring training start. “It feels good to be in that spot, so we can start strong.”
The Yankees were careful in bringing Hughes back from his injury, and they were rewarded as he went 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts in September to help New York clinch the wild card. The righty went 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in three starts versus the Blue Jays in 2007, and struggled at home against them, allowing seven runs and 14 hits in 9 1-3 innings spanning two starts.