Yankees-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees' advantage atop the AL East is back down to one game.

With the way Hiroki Kuroda has been pitching, coupled with the red-hot hitting of Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia, that lead could quickly vanish.

Kuroda again tries to snap out of his funk and help the Yankees avoid a fourth loss in six games as they continue their road series with the Blue Jays on Friday night.

In losing Thursday's opener 6-0, New York (90-66) squandered an opportunity to take a two-game lead over second-place Baltimore with six to play. Another Yankees loss, combined with an Orioles home win over lowly Boston, would create a tie atop the East for the first time since Sept. 18.

"We know what's at stake right now and we've just got to go out there and keep picking up wins,'' Nick Swisher said. "We've got a little six-game playoff race.''

Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup Thursday as the designated hitter after missing a game with a left foot injury, but was hitless in two at-bats. New York managed five hits in being shut out for the first time since Aug. 4.

While Rodriguez is 1 for 16 in his last four games, Robinson Cano is 8 for 12 with three doubles in his last three.

The Blue Jays (69-87) have a pair of hitters who have been just as hot.

Encarnacion had three hits and three RBIs in the opener, and is hitting .382 with eight RBIs in nine games since missing three with a sore right big toe.

Arencibia hit his 18th homer Thursday, and is batting .692 with two home runs and six RBIs during a five-game hitting streak. Extending the run seems likely, considering he is 5 for 6 with a homer and two doubles lifetime against Kuroda (14-11, 3.34 ERA).

Encarnacion is 3 for 8 with a homer in his career against the right-hander, who gave up five runs, seven hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings in Sunday's 5-4 loss to Oakland.

Kuroda has a 5.29 ERA in his last five starts after recording a 1.66 ERA in his previous eight. That stretch started with his last outing against the Blue Jays on July 18, when he gave up four hits in a seven-inning, complete-game 6-0 victory.

In his lone start in Toronto on May 16, Kuroda was tagged for a season-high seven runs in five innings of an 8-1 loss.

The Blue Jays, winners of three of four following a seven-game losing streak, counter with Chad Jenkins (0-2, 4.24).

After being called up in early August and appearing in 10 games out of the bullpen, Jenkins had an encouraging first start against Tampa Bay on Sunday. The righty allowed one run on a B.J. Upton homer and just one other hit while striking out four and walking one in five innings, but was a tough-luck loser in a 3-0 defeat. Manager John Farrell was impressed with his command of the strike zone and said he will remain in the rotation.

"I'm excited to be starting again and kind of get back into the routine,'' Jenkins said. "I'm honored that he feels I've earned another one. Hopefully I can go out and repeat it again.''

Jenkins was pulled after making 66 pitches, but could be asked to throw more against the Yankees.

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