Now that they’ve officially been eliminated from postseason contention, motivation might be harder to come by for the New York Yankees, who face A.J. Burnett on Wednesday night when they continue their three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Burnett (18-10, 4.18 ERA) could be making his final start for Toronto (83-74) as he has can opt out of his contract at the end of the year. He looks to add to his career high win total Wednesday against a Yankees team that has been eliminated from the playoffs but one that has won six straight and nine of 11, including Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Toronto.
Despite the win, the Yankees were eliminated from the playoff race with Boston’s 5-4 victory over Cleveland, making this the first season the Yankees have failed to make the playoffs since 1993, not including the strike-shortened 1994 season.
“The last two weeks we’ve shown the kind of baseball we can play,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “It’s just very unfortunate and frustrating that we weren’t able to put stretches like this together more often. It was a very inconsistent year for all of us. With the talent that we have in this clubhouse, that’s the way we should have played all year.”
Rodriguez and the Yankees have struggled against Burnett, who is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in four starts against them this season. Burnett, who is 8-1 with a 3.06 ERA in his last 12 overall starts, pitched seven innings against Boston on Friday, allowing three runs and eight hits in a 4-3 loss. He struck out six and did not factor in the decision.
Burnett acknowledged on the Blue Jays’ official Web site that he could be making his final start with Toronto on Wednesday. He said the team’s overtures will matter as he tries to make a decision.
“When I start thinking about it, it might,” Burnett said. “My plans, my goals are to finish out a healthy season. And then we’ll go from there.”
Burnett is 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 career starts against New York.
The Yankees counter with Phil Hughes (0-4, 7.96).
Hughes made his first start since April 29 last Wednesday, pitching four innings in a win over the Chicago White Sox. The 22-year-old right-hander, who missed most of the season because of a stress fracture in his rib, allowed one run and four hits in the 5-1 victory.
“I really felt like I would have gotten out of it, it’s just the injury held me back,” Hughes said Tuesday of his early season struggles. “I never really got an opportunity to dig myself out of that hole.”
Hughes is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays. He pitched six innings against them on April 3 and did not receive a decision after allowing two runs and four hits in a 3-2 loss.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter didn’t start Tuesday because of a sore left hand, but came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth. He was hit by a pitch Saturday against Baltimore and was 0-for-5 on Sunday in New York’s final game at Yankee Stadium.