|Yankees feel the heat, hope to rebound vs. Jays|
NEW YORK -- When Aaron Judge fractured his right wrist July 26, first place in the American League East was within striking distance and the fallback option of hosting the wild-card game seemed fairly secure for the New York Yankees.
Three weeks later, winning the AL East does not appear to be a reality and suddenly hosting the wild-card game does not appear as secure. The Yankees are 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the division and 5 1/2 clear in the wild-card race.
With those things in mind, the Yankees hope to rebound from a pair of disappointing performances against the Tampa Bay Rays when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
Since putting Judge on the disabled list, the Yankees are 10-10 and hitting .237 without the All-Star outfielder. The Yankees have totaled 95 runs and 28 homers without Judge but also have faltered in clutch situations, especially in the last two games.
After getting swept in a four-game series in Boston Aug. 2-5, the Yankees rebounded by winning seven of nine before being held to two runs in the final two games against the Rays. In Wednesday's 6-1 loss and Thursday afternoon's 3-1 setback, the Yankee finished a combined 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position.
"I pay attention to the sport," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I know what's going on. But I'm not thinking about what team is ahead or behind. That's just frankly a waste of time. We got to get after it. We got to get after the Blue Jays. That is my focus. That is our team's focus."
New York's last two runs have occurred on a homer by Miguel Andujar and an RBI double by Giancarlo Stanton. Since Judge's last game, Andujar is hitting .289 with seven homers and 18 RBIs while Stanton is batting .278 with seven homers and 16 RBIs.
Others are struggling, notably rookie Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird. Torres halted an 0-for-17 streak with a single but is 10-for-66 since July 26, while Bird is 11-for-65.
"No need to give a state of the race," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. "We're 10 or 11 games back, the Red Sox obviously have been playing great baseball. Frustrating couple of days for us, here, hopefully, we can get back on track tomorrow."
The Yankees are hoping one of their new additions can help them open the series on a good note Friday when Lance Lynn (8-8, 4.46 ERA) makes his third start since joining the Yankees. Lynn made his debut with the Yankees by pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings after Sonny Gray struggled Aug. 1 against Baltimore. Lynn was inserted into the rotation three days later.
In two starts since taking Gray's spot, he is 2-0 with an 0.73 ERA. After allowing two hits and retiring 19 in a row at one point on Aug. 6 at Chicago, Lynn allowed one run on five hits in five innings of Saturday's 5-3 win over Texas.
"He's done a really good job of just going out there and pounding the strike zone and giving us quality outings, those are huge for us right now," Boone said.
Lynn is 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) against Toronto. One of those starts came this season while with the Twins when Lynn allowed six runs in five innings in a 7-5 loss on April 30.
The Blue Jays are 2-7 this season against the Yankees and since their last game at Yankee Stadium on April 22, they are 42-58.
Toronto is heading to New York after a 6-2 loss at Kansas City Thursday night in a game that began over two hours late because of rain.
Marcus Stroman (4-8, 5.03) will start Friday's opener for the Blue Jays and will hope to avoid having a third straight start be disrupted by a blister on his right middle finger. He pitched seven innings while allowing one run Aug. 7 against Boston, but Sunday he was removed after allowing one run on five hits against Tampa Bay.
Stroman was limited to throwing sinking fastballs and cutters because the blister impacted his ability to throw sliders and curveballs.
"It is what it is," Stroman said. "I'm a competitor. I'm going to get through it. I'm going to make my starts. I'm not going to miss starts at this point. It's something that I'm going to get through. My body and arm are feeling great, that's the most frustrating part. My pitches feel great."
Despite the blister issue, Stroman is pitching better since starting the season 0-5 in his first seven starts. Since then, he is 4-3 with a 2.34 ERA in his last 10 outings.
Stroman is 6-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 15 career starts against the Yankees. He has started two games against New York this season, going 0-1 with an 8.71 ERA over 10 1/3 innings in those two games.
The Long Island native is 2-5 with a 5.84 ERA in eight career starts at Yankee Stadium.