The Yankees look to win their three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Sunday in the teams’ final game before the break.
New York (50-44) began the season with the highest payroll in the majors and a new manager in Joe Girardi. The Yankees, though, have been hit by injuries to the pitching staff and an unexpectedly inconsistent offense as they find themselves in third place in the AL East behind Tampa Bay and Boston.
For Rodriguez, the All-Star break probably comes at the perfect time. The reigning AL MVP is hitting .313 with 19 homers and 53 RBIs, but he’s batting .190 (4-for-21) in five games this week since his wife filed for divorce Monday, alleging adultery.
After a week of being the subject of tabloid rumors, Rodriguez broke out of his slump Saturday, driving in three runs in New York’s 9-4 win over the Blue Jays (46-48). He hit his 537th home run in the fourth inning to move past Mickey Mantle into sole possession of 13th place all-time.
“These are special names,” Rodriguez said. “You’ve got to take a step back and enjoy the moment.”
The home run was Rodriguez’s 192nd with the Yankees, tying Tino Martinez for 15th place on the franchise list.
Despite their problems, the Yankees have won five of seven and remain in the thick of the division race.
Saturday’s loss snapped Toronto’s four-game winning streak. The Blue Jays scored four runs in the first, including three on Adam Lind’s triple, but managed four hits over the remaining eight innings.
The Yankees will send surging Andy Pettitte (10-6, 3.93 ERA) to the mound for the series finale. The left-hander, who will try to tie Mike Mussina for the team lead in wins, is 5-1 with a 1.82 ERA in his last six starts.
Pettitte pitched eight innings against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, allowing four hits and striking out five in a 5-0 victory. He’s 16-9 with a 4.13 ERA in 32 starts against the Blue Jays, including 11-4 with a 4.11 ERA at Toronto.
The Jays will counter with A.J. Burnett (9-8, 5.23), who’s looking to match his win total of each of the last two seasons. The right-hander has won three of his last four starts, although he’s struggled in the previous two.
Burnett allowed seven runs, seven hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings against the Orioles on Wednesday but managed to get the win in a 9-8 victory. He gave up eight runs - six earned - in seven innings of an 8-2 loss to Toronto on July 4, and has a 6.91 ERA in his last seven outings.
The right-hander is 6-3 at home this season, but has a 6.36 ERA there. He’s 4-2 with a 3.18 ERA in seven overall starts against the Yankees, beating them 5-2 on the road April 2 with six innings of two-run ball.