Yankees expect to have A-Rod back for finale with Twins

The New York Yankees are expected to have Alex Rodriguez game set with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

The Yanks haven't skipped a beat without Rodriguez, who has been sidelined since July 7 following surgery to repair a torn right meniscus, as the team went 25-13 without him, are a half-game ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and own the best mark in the AL at 76-48.

"My mouth's getting watery here," said Rodriguez. "I'm ready to play, and I've watched enough baseball."

It will be a nice sight to have the three-time MVP and 14-time All-Star back on the field on Sunday when the Yankees once again try to overcome another awful showing from A.J. Burnett.

On Saturday Burnett lasted a mere 1 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on just five hits and three walks before being shown the showers in what turned into a 9-4 loss for the visitors.

"We need him to pitch like he's capable of pitching. That's the bottom line. He's got struggles. His last two starts were nothing but. We've gotta get him back on track," said Yanks manager Joe Girardi of his embattled starter. "I don't lose confidence in players."

Burnett and Girardi appeared to have words on the mound when the righty was lifted, but both vehemently denied that after the game.

Designated hitter Andruw Jones belted a home run for NY, while Eduardo Nunez accounted for two of the team's seven hits as they saw a two-game win streak snapped. Francisco Cervelli and Curtis Granderson drove in a run apiece for the Yankees, who lost for the third time in their last 10 outings.

The Twins were paced by Jason Kubel who finished 3-for-5 and drove in two runs as the team snapped a two-game slide. Ben Revere and Justin Morneau each posted two RBI, while Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer contributed a pair of hits and scored twice for the Twins, who continue to chase most of the pack in the AL Central. Danny Valencia added a solo homer and walked twice.

Francisco Liriano worked seven innings for the win, scattering three hits and three walks with an unearned run while fanning six as he evened his season record at 9-9.

"He pitched good, really good. When he gets those first pitch strikes and gets ahead, he's one of the best and tonight was an example of that," Valencia said of Liriano. "It was just an overall great job by him tonight."

A pleasant surprise this season to say the least, Ivan Nova is again slated to take the hill for the Yankees this afternoon in Minneapolis and hopefully he'll be able to erase the memory of Burnett's lackluster effort. The right-hander, already with one win against the Twins in 2011, posted his fifth straight win earlier this week when the Bronx Bombers dismissed Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, 9-7.

During the matchup with the Royals, Nova was roughed up a bit for seven runs on nine hits and struck out only two over the course of 5 1/3 innings, yet he still celebrated the win nonetheless.

Nova has not come out on the losing end of a game since the first week of June when the Yankees suffered a 3-2 loss at Anaheim.

As for the Twins, they have Nick Blackburn ready to counter Nova, the right-hander getting his first look at the Yankees this season.

Blackburn, who is 2-1 in his career versus New York, suffered his fourth loss in the last five games on Tuesday when he and his squad were downed by the Detroit Tigers, 7-1, on the road. In that matchup Blackburn scattered 11 hits and allowed five runs in just 4 2/3 innings of action. He walked two and struck out just a single batter for the second time in the last three appearances.

The Oklahoma native has had some serious issues with his control of late, walking a total of 15 batters in the last four contests and striking out just eight during that span.