The Yankees need to make up ground in the playoff race, and the schedule is presenting them with a golden opportunity to do just that.
The Yankees have owned the Blue Jays this season, going 8-1 against them, including 6-0 at home. The teams will play each other seven times over a nine-day span, beginning with a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, who have won six of their past eight games, will host a four-game set before heading north of the border for three more games next week.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will tab Ivan Nova to oppose Esmil Rogers in the afternoon game, and Phil Hughes will take on veteran Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle in the nightcap. Nova and Hughes have been going in opposite directions.
Nova (6-4, 2.99 ERA) has dazzled over his past seven starts, posting a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts to 12 walks over 52 1/3 innings. On Wednesday, he limited the Angels to three runs over 7 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits but no walks and striking out six.
Hughes (4-12, 4.97), on the other hand, has not won since July 2 and is 2-10 with a 5.23 ERA over his past 16 starts. He has a 6.03 ERA at Yankee Stadium, although he posted a quality start there Thursday, holding the Angels to three runs on six hits over six innings.
"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."
Rogers (3-7, 4.91) had been moved to the bullpen after going through a three-start stretch in which he surrendered 20 earned runs over 12 1/3 innings. But he was granted a reprieve when Josh Johnson was placed on the disabled list. Rogers made an emergency start Wednesday and held the Red Sox to one run on five hits over six innings, although his winless streak was extended to 10 outings.
"The opportunity that the Blue Jays gave me this year is unbelievable," Rogers said. "I was just thinking to myself, if they gave me this opportunity, I had to take [advantage] of being there for the rest of the year."
Buehrle's own resurgence began in May, when he had a 7.02 ERA. In 18 starts since, he owns a 3.33 mark, including 2.36 over his past five outings. The Blue Jays have won each of those games, with Buehrle going 4-0.
"I'm just trying to get on a roll right now," Buehrle said after a stellar outing against the Red Sox on Thursday. "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."
Blue Jays: Reyes, Kawasaki to return
The Blue Jays, who are 1-2 to start their 10-game road trip, expect to get two of their middle infielders back in time for the doubleheader.
Jose Reyes sat out his second straight game Sunday with a sore right knee, but the pain and swelling should dissipate enough to allow him to play Tuesday. Before Saturday, Reyes had played in every game since coming off the disabled list on June 26, but he is in a 2-for-22 slump.
Munenori Kawasaki was in Toronto on paternity leave over the weekend. He is hitting .205 with one homer and 20 RBIs in 72 games this season.
Yankees: A-Rod contributing on both sides
Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a home run Sunday, and has reached base safely in 11 of his 12 games.
"We've seen him drive the ball," Girardi said this weekend. "We've seen him hit hard line drives. The bat speed is definitely there."
Rodriguez also has started 10 of 12 games at third base, including five straight, and Girardi said he was pleased with Rodriguez's ability to play the field.
• Buehrle gave up 10 runs over 11 1/3 innings in two starts at Yankee Stadium earlier this season. He has also struggled in his career against two New York veterans. Ichiro Suzuki is 24-for-57 (.421), while Vernon Wells is 24-for-53 (.453) with four doubles and three homers.
• The Yankees have won nine straight home games against the Blue Jays going back to last season.