Blue Jays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

As one veteran has faltered of late, the New York Yankees are hoping another can deliver in his return.

Andy Pettitte makes his first start in nearly three months Wednesday when the Yankees open a three-game series with a day-night doubleheader against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.

Owning a 10-game lead atop the AL East at one point, it could have been argued the Yankees (83-63) might not have missed the 40-year-old left-hander that much after he suffered a fractured ankle on a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.

But with CC Sabathia losing three of his last four starts and New York now tied with Baltimore atop the division, Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will be thrown right into the mix in the first game after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game Sept. 11.

Manager Joe Girardi likely will limit Pettitte to 70 pitches, and Tuesday's rainout made the left-hander more antsy to get back on the mound.

"I ain't gonna lie to you, I'm tired of talking about it," he told the Yankees' website after the rainout was made official. "I just want to go out there and pitch, and hopefully give this team a chance to win that ballgame (Wednesday), and move forward from there.

"I'm just ready to get out there. It's all about mechanics out there and getting into a good rhythm, stuff like that, so I think all that's going to be fine."

Pettitte did not face the Blue Jays this year before getting hurt. He is 21-12 versus Toronto - his second-most victories against any team - but is only 6-7 in 19 home starts.

The Yankees seem to have found some solid footing of late, taking two of three from both Boston and Tampa Bay, capped by a 6-4 victory over the Rays on Sunday when Russell Martin's three-run homer highlighted a five-run third.

The Blue Jays pushed Tuesday's scheduled starter Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.87) to the nightcap of this twinbill, opting to send Henderson Alvarez (9-12, 4.91) to face Pettitte. The right-hander is trying to match a season high by winning a third straight start, also accomplished April 29-May 10.

Alvarez has been given 13 runs of support in his previous two outings and limited Seattle to three runs and five hits in seven innings of an 8-3 win Thursday. He failed to register a decision in either of his two starts versus the Yankees this year, giving up six runs and 10 hits - three of them home runs - in 9 1-3 innings.

While Alvarez has had some issues against the Yankees, Romero has had plenty versus New York - and every opposing team for nearly three months.

The left-hander is 0-13 with a 7.91 ERA in 14 starts since beating Miami on June 22, and his losing streak has tied a club record established by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979. New York has made a significant contribution to Romero's stretch of misery, giving him three of those defeats by reaching him for 11 runs in 20 innings.

Romero's woes continued versus Seattle on Wednesday, when he allowed three runs and eight hits with four walks and was pulled after four-plus innings in a 3-2 defeat. Despite the ongoing futility, manager John Farrell refuses to give up on the pitcher who won 42 games his first three years in the majors.

"We're not abandoning Ricky Romero," Farrell said. "We're going to continue to work with him, we're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."

Romero is trying to avoid becoming the first pitcher to lose 14 consecutive decisions as a starter in a single season since Mike Parrott did so with the Mariners in 1980, accomplishing that dubious feat in 15 starts spanning April 15-Sept. 13, 1980.

Curtis Granderson, whose next home run will make him the first Yankee outfielder to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons since Mickey Mantle in 1960-61, is 4 for 21 with one home run and eight strikeouts versus Romero. Jayson Nix, though, is 7 for 12 with a double.

With no off days until the end of the regular season, the rainout forced Girardi to shuffle his rotation, and he will use rookie David Phelps (4-4, 3.39) in the second game. The right-hander pitched two-thirds of an inning versus Tampa Bay Sunday in relief, giving up one hit and one walk, but got a win in his last start Sept. 12 by limiting Boston to one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 victory.

Phelps's lone outing versus Toronto came Aug. 27, when he yielded four runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-7, 11-inning loss.

The Blue Jays will be without shortstop Yunel Escobar after the team suspended him for three games Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during Saturday's game against Boston.