|Yankees hoping Stanton breaks out vs. Jays|
NEW YORK -- While the results did not lead to towering home runs or big hits, the New York Yankees believe the at-bats were better for Giancarlo Stanton in the opener of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
Stanton snapped a 0-for-15 slide by legging out an infield hit and drew a walk on a night when the slugger saw 23 pitches in a 4-3 victory.
The Yankees are hoping to see more positive signs from Stanton Friday night when they continue their weekend series with the Blue Jays.
"Good, I thought all of them, a lot of deep counts," Boone said after the Yankees improved to 9-8. "I thought he was on pitches a lot more, laying off pitches just out of the zone.
"I thought he controlled his at-bats tonight, controlled the zone and hopefully a positive step for him."
Stanton will enter his 18th game with the Yankees batting .203 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He batted fourth for the first time Thursday after spending his first 16 games as the team's third-place hitter behind Aaron Judge.
Boone's postgame comments occurred several hours after he said he wasn't planning on moving Stanton much lower than fourth.
"He's too close to finding that feeling to where he can lock in, so I have no intentions of moving him down further," Boone said. "I still want him surrounded by impact guys."
One of those "impact guys" is Judge, who hit his fifth homer in the seventh inning before David Robertson allowed a run in the eighth and ultimately escaping a bases-loaded jam.
Judge has reached base safely in 23 straight home games dating back to last season and 14 straight overall. During those 14 games, he is batting .380 with five homers, 12 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
"It seems like every single at-bat is a grind for the pitcher,'' Boone said. "It's just because he controls the zone so well and obviously the power. I think he's just really in tune with what he wants to do up there and he goes up there and executes and wins a lot of pitches."
Toronto has not dropped consecutive contests since losing its first two games of the season to the Yankees. The Blue Jays are 7-2 in their last nine after going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position Thursday.
The Blue Jays will face a roster decision Friday when they are expected to activate Kendrys Morales. Morales was placed on the disabled list April 10 with a strained hamstring after going 5-for-22 in his first eight games.
It is possible Teoscar Hernandez could be sent down, but he is hitting .375 in five games after getting a single in the eighth on Thursday.
"Look at what he's doing -- maybe he ought to get regular playing time here," Toronto manager John Gibbons said before the series opener. "I don't think he has anything more to prove in Triple-A.
"I can't answer that yet, how it's all going to shake out. You want to throw your best team out there, don't you?
Marco Estrada (1-1, 4.24 ERA) starts for Toronto on Friday and will be pitching for the first time in nine days. He last started April 11 in a 5-3 loss at Baltimore, when he allowed four runs and six hits in four-plus innings.
Estrada also experienced some lower back discomfort but did not indicate it caused his first loss.
Estrada is 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts) against the Yankees. He last faced the Yankees March 31 in Toronto and allowed three runs on four hits in seven innings during a no-decision in a 5-3 victory.
The Blue Jays are 11-4 against the Yankees when Estrada starts. They are unbeaten in all six of his starts in New York since acquiring the right-hander before the 2015 season.
Various Yankees have mixed results against Estrada, who is throwing his changeup 28.3 percent of the time.
Judge is 7-for-17 with two homers and five RBIs, Stanton is 5-for-14 with three homers and five RBIs but Brett Gardner is 6-for-41 and Gary Sanchez is 4-for-19.
Sonny Gray will pitch for the Yankees, who are he can provide length for a bullpen that has totaled 69 innings.
Gray's first 13 innings have been inconsistent and it reflects in his 1-1 record and 6.92 ERA. Gray last started April 12 in a 6-3 loss at Boston when he allowed six runs and seven hits in three innings.
Since joining the Yankees, Gray has not completed six innings in six of 14 starts. While he pitched six innings in two starts against Toronto while with New York last season, Gray labored through four innings by throwing 89 pitches to 21 hitters at Toronto on April 1.
Overall, Gray is 4-3 with a 2.09 ERA in nine starts against Toronto.
Toronto's current roster owns a collective .215 average off Gray. Justin Smoak is 5-for-27 off him while Morales is 2-for-20 and Kevin Pillar is 5-for-19.