The New York Yankees have some work to do if they want to reach the postseason. They have a golden opportunity to gain some ground on Tuesday when they play a day/night doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
New York enters this twin-bill on the heels of an emotional win in Boston on Sunday that saw the Yankees score four times in the sixth inning in a 9-6 win. Brett Gardener's three-run triple highlighted the big frame, while Alex Rodriguez homered and finished 3-for-4, as the Yanks won for the sixth time in their last eight games.
Earlier in the contest Rodriguez had been hit by Ryan Dempster (6-9), resulting in both benches clearing briefly and New York manager Joe Girardi being ejected from the game after both teams received warnings.
"Whether you like me or hate me, what's wrong is wrong. That was unprofessional and silly," Rodriguez said. "Today kind of brought us together."
New York finds itself eight games back of the Red Sox in the division and is 6 1/2 back of the wild card.
Getting the call for the Yanks in game one will be right-hander Ivan Nova, who is 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA. Nova picked up the win against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday, as he allowed three runs and 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings. He also struck out six without walking a batter.
Nova has been magnificent over his past seven starts, posting a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts to 12 walks over 52 1/3 innings.
Phil Hughes will go for the Yanks in the second game after a solid outing his last time out. The right-hander, who has pitched to a 6.03 ERA at Yankee Stadium, is just 2-10 with a 5.23 ERA over his past 16 starts overall.
Hughes lost to the Angels on Thursday, but pitched well, giving up three runs and six hits in six innings. Still, he fell to 4-12 on the year to go along with a 4.97 ERA.
"It was obviously better; it was hard to pitch much worse than I had been," Hughes said. "It felt like the results weren't exactly what I wanted, but I felt like I threw the ball OK. But at the end of the day, it's a loss, which is not what we set out to accomplish today."
Toronto, meanwhile, lost two of three over the weekend to Tampa Bay and has dropped five of its last eight. The Jays are in the midst of 10-game road trip and are 26-35 away from home this season.
They'll hand the ball to righty Esmil Rogers in the first game on Tuesday. Rogers did not get a decision on Wednesday in an emergency start against Boston, but was terrific, allowing just a run and five hits in six innings of his team's 4-3 win. He is 3-7 on the year with a 4.91 ERA and is winless in his last 10 appearances.
Getting the ball in the second game for Toronto will be lefty Mark Buehrle, who has won his last four decisions. Buehrle beat the Red Sox on Thursday, limiting them to a run and 10 hits in seven innings to push his record to 9-7, while lowering his ERA to 4.29.
The Blue Jays have won each of Buehrle's last five starts and he is 4-0 over that span with a 2.36 ERA.
"I'm just trying to get on a roll right now," Buehrle said. "I don't care if we're out of the playoffs, or in the playoffs, if we're in the thick of it. I go out there and try to win every start. No matter what the situation is, I'm going out there trying to compete and trying to win."
New York, though, has given him fits over his career. Buehrle has already lost twice to the Yankees this season and is just 1-10 lifetime against them with a 6.28 ERA in 15 starts.
The Yankees have beaten the Blue Jays in eight of nine matchups this season, including all six in the Bronx.