Desperately trying to get back in the pennant race, the New York Yankees hope Rodriguez can end his woes against Burnett and the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
New York (71-62) is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993, trailing AL East-leading Tampa Bay by 10 1/2 games and Boston by six games in the wild card race. The Yankees salvaged a three-game set with the Red Sox, winning the finale 3-2 Thursday.
“We have a pulse,” said New York slugger Jason Giambi, who came off the bench to hit a tying homer in the seventh inning and a game-winning single in the ninth. “Hopefully, this will jump-start this ballclub.”
With New York’s playoff hopes diminishing, Rodriguez had one of the toughest series of his Yankees’ tenure.
The three-time MVP struck out three times and popped up with runners at the corners with one out in the sixth inning Thursday, getting booed by New York fans all afternoon. He was also terrible Tuesday night, going 0-for-5 and grounding into two double plays in a 7-3 loss to Boston.
Rodriguez showed his frustration in the series’ final game, banging his bat against the rack nearly 10 times after fouling out.
Now, Rodriguez will face one of baseball’s winningest pitchers and a Toronto team he has struggled against all season. Rodriguez is 2-for-10 (.200) with five strikeouts versus Burnett (16-9, 4.58 ERA) this year, and batting .227 (10-for-44) with 15 strikeouts against the Blue Jays (68-65).
Burnett has often been saved by strong run support this season, getting an average of 5.19 runs to work with, but he hasn’t needed much assistance against the Yankees.
The veteran right-hander has won all three of his starts against New York this season, striking out 24 in 22 1-3 innings and posting a 1.61 ERA. He is 6-2 with a 2.63 ERA in nine career starts against New York.
Burnett had won six straight starts before Sunday, when he allowed five runs and seven hits in seven innings as Toronto lost 6-5 in 11 innings to Boston.
Burnett, trying to help Toronto bounce back from a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night, will match up with New York’s Carl Pavano.
Pavano is coming off his first major league appearance since April 2007, allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings to get credit for a 5-3 win over Baltimore on Saturday. The right-hander walked one, hit two batters and struck out five in his first major league start since undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery last June.
It was Pavano’s 20th start with the Yankees since signing a four-year, $39.95 million contract before the 2005 season.
Pavano is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts against the Blue Jays.
Toronto and New York have split their 12 matchups this season.