Yankees have sinking feeling after three straight shutout losses

TORONTO -- The New York Yankees will be trying to do something they have failed to do for the past three games when they play the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon.

They will try to score a run, or even better, several of them,

The Yankees have not scored in their past three games, the past two against Toronto and the first against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

It is the first time the Yankees have been held scoreless in three consecutive games since July 27 (a doubleheader) and July 28, 1975.

"It's hard to explain," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. "We didn't have too many opportunities today. (Toronto starter Marcus) Stroman kept us in check (for seven innings). We just weren't able to get anything going off him.

"You hope you go out and score the first inning the next day and that it kind of gets you going. There's no lack of effort. You become disappointed when there's a lack of effort."

The Yankees have been shut out six times in September and an American League-leading 13 times overall this season. They also have lost 10 of their past 13 games and are pretty well out of the race for a wild-card spot although still mathematically alive.

They also will be trying to end a seven-game losing streak at Rogers Centre when they send out right-hander Michael Pineda (6-11, 4.89 ERA) against Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.62).

The Blue Jays have won six of their past nine games and occupy the first American League wild-card spot.

All of their runs Saturday came on the 20th homer of the season by Jose Bautista with two outs in the eighth inning against Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard.

This season has been a struggle for Bautista, who has had two stints on the disabled list that have cost him 42 games.

"He's heating up at the right time," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has been known to do some things in key spots. I was sitting on the bench with DeMarlo (bench coach Hale) and mentioned that to him (when Bautista batted in the eighth). Right guy, right time, basically."

Bautista is showing that he might be a key figure down the September stretch and into October.

He hit a ninth-inning homer on Wednesday to tie the score in Seattle, a game the Blue Jays went on to lose 2-1 in 12 innings to the Mariners.

Bautista, who has put the Blue Jays ahead in a game with 14 of his homers this season, was not about to point to nagging injuries this season as an excuse for a .233 batting average and lower than usual power numbers.

"Everybody in here has been banged up or had to deal with something so I can't really point to that as an excuse," Bautista said. "Do I feel better physically? Yes. Does that help? Probably. I've been nicked up for the past fives, six years, and I've had success before so I'm not going to use that as an excuse."

Estrada, who will start the third game of the four-game series against the Yankees on Sunday, ended a three-game losing streak Monday when he held the Mariners to one hit, three walks and no runs in seven innings. He had eight strikeouts in the 3-2 victory. It was his first win since Aug. 29.

In four starts in September, he is 1-3 with a 5.49 ERA. Estrada is 2-0 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season and is 3-2 with a 4.09 ERA in nine career games, including eight starts, against them.

Meanwhile, Pineda has not completed five innings in three of his past four starts. He is on an eight-start winless streak that matches his career high. He is 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA during that span, although the Yankee are 4-4 in those starts.

In two starts this season against Toronto, he is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA. He is 2-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 career starts against the Blue Jays.

It won't matter how well Pineda might pitch, however, if the Yankees do not score.

"Whatever we're doing right now it's not working, which disappointing because we swung the bats well the first two games in Tampa," said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who has had a sore neck and was limited to an inning in the field for the past two games. "We just seem to have lost it the last few days."