Winning a series against the team with the best record in the AL would be more than acceptable if only the New York Yankees weren’t in such a dire position. Now, a three-game sweep of the league’s worst club is almost a necessity if they are to reach the playoffs for a 14th consecutive season.
The Yankees look to make it nine straight wins against the Seattle Mariners when the teams open their series Friday night at Safeco Field.
After taking the first two games against AL East-leading Tampa Bay, New York (75-65) was poised to become the first team this season to sweep a three-game series from the Rays at Tropicana Field.
A poor outing from starter Darrell Rasner, however, put the Yankees in an early hole and a late comeback fell short as the Rays extended their division lead with a 7-5 victory.
The defeat ended the Yankees’ six-game road winning streak and dropped them 7 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Boston with 22 games remaining. Catching Tampa Bay - 11 1/2 games ahead of New York - appears nearly impossible.
“We need more than series. Obviously we need to string together a lot of wins,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve got a lot of ground to make up.”
Jeter’s long ball left him four hits shy of tying Babe Ruth for second on the Yankees’ career list.
Rodriguez, who has homered in four of his last five contests, is 12-for-27 (.444) with 12 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
“We’re not looking at series. We’re looking at games as must-win games, and that’s the situation tomorrow,” Rodriguez said. It’s almost like college. Double-elimination and you go home. That has to be the approach. Urgent.”
Three games against the lowly Mariners (54-85) could be coming too late for the Yankees, who have won all six meetings this season against Seattle and eight in a row in the series. New York has outscored Seattle 50-17 in 2008, batting .335 with six homers and 19 doubles.
Right fielder Bobby Abreu is batting .462 (12-for-26) with a homer and nine RBIs this season against Seattle, but may not be available Friday due to a sore left wrist that kept him sidelined Thursday.
New York starter Andy Pettitte (13-11, 4.52 ERA) looks to rebound from consecutive poor outings. The left-hander was charged with six runs and 10 hits for the second straight start in a 6-2 home loss to Toronto on Sunday.
Pettitte has lost four of his last five decisions and the Yankees have dropped six of his last seven starts.
Pettitte is 0-4 with a 5.63 ERA in his last four games at Seattle, where he hasn’t won since Aug. 7, 1999.
Although they own the worst record in the AL, the Mariners have played better lately, winning eight of their last 12 games. That surge could help them avoid the franchise’s first 100-loss season since 1983.
Looking toward 2009, Seattle will give reliever Brandon Morrow (1-2, 1.47) his first major league start.
Morrow, who has been outstanding as a set-up man and temporary closer this season, has made 100 relief appearances in two years with the Mariners. He was sent to Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 5 to prepare for the switch to relief, and made five starts while gradually building his pitch count to 82.
Morrow, a part-time starter in college, made five starts in the Venezuelan Winter League last November and December.
He has no record and a 12.27 ERA in six career games against the Yankees.