|Yankees need to come up big against Jays|
NEW YORK -- When they left Yankee Stadium for a cross-country flight to Oakland following a tedious 11-7 loss to the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees held a decent amount of comfort in the wild-card race.
Now they come back still occupying the lead in the wild-card race but hardly with a comfortable lead.
Heading into the opener of a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Oakland Athletics.
The Yankees are returning from a middling 4-5 nine-game trip through Oakland, Seattle and Minnesota. The uneven trip followed a disappointing 3-4 showing in a seven-game home stand against the Chicago White Sox and Tigers.
"We know what's at stake," Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. "We know what we need to do. It's not an ideal today or a trip. We know what we need to do. We're going to come out on Friday and get it done."
By going 7-9 in their last 16 games, the Yankees have gone from 4 1/2 up on Oakland to hardly assured of hosting the one-game playoff on Oct. 3.
Going back further, when the Yankees fell 9 1/2 out in the AL East after being swept by the Red Sox, they were 2 1/2 up and while they gained two games on the A's, they were not able to shake their pesky challenger.
While the Yankees scored enough in their last homestand at times, they did not hit well for most of the trip. They were no-hit until the eighth when Greg Bird ended Jake Odorizzi's no-hit bid and were held to two hits in Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Minnesota.
During the trip, the Yankees scored 33 runs while batting .198 (56-for-283) while striking out 75 times. With runners in scoring position, New York batted and hit .169 (10-for-59).
"We have the equipment in that room to be the club we expect to be. Baseball will punch you in the mouth every now and then," Boone said. "We are clearly facing a little bit of adversity right now and we will be better for it. I expect us to come out Friday ready to turn the page."
Stanton, who was rested in the last home game, was 4-for-34 with 16 strikeouts on the trip. Gary Sanchez was 5-for-27 on the trip with three of those hits in a 7-2 Monday, Didi Gregorius is 3-for-15 since returning from a heel injury and Aaron Hicks went 3-for-27 on the trip.
At least the Yankees can say good things may be happening on the injury front. Sanchez and Gregorius recently returned and Aaron Judge along with Aroldis Chapman appear close to returning.
Judge took regular batting practice on the field before Wednesday's game and could get into a simulated game soon. Since he fractured his right wrist on July 26, the Yankees are 25-20.
Chapman has been out since Aug. 22 with tendinitis in his right knee but threw a bullpen session Wednesday in Tampa and could get into a simulated game if another bullpen session goes well.
Masahiro Tanaka will start the opener and seeks his 12th win after allowing three hits and striking out 10 in eight scoreless innings last Friday in Seattle. It marked the eighth time in 10 starts he allowed two earned runs or less.
Tanaka is 10-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 16 starts against Toronto, which is the only opponent he owns 10 wins against. His last appearance against the Blue Jays in New York was Sept. 29, when he fanned 15 in seven innings of a 4-0 win.
The Blue Jays (65-81) didn't help the Yankees by losing three straight at Fenway Park, lowering the Yankees magic number for elimination in the AL East to six. The Blue Jays lost for the eighth time in 12 games when second baseman Yangervis Solarte committed a fielding error in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-3 loss.
The next loss will clinch Toronto's second straight losing season and they head into New York hoping to see what they have in players like Rowdy Tellez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Gurriel homered and is hitting .284 in 55 games while Tellez is 9-for-22 (.409) in his first eight games.
"(Playing at Fenway) has been good for them and when we go into Yankee Stadium that's going to help them," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Whether they start here next year or when they make it. Next time they go in there at least e game there. It helps. People get in awe of these places. I still do. I think that definitely helps."
Marco Estrada starts for Toronto and hopes to end a three-game winless streak. Since beating Baltimore Aug. 20, he is 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA, though he allowed two runs in six innings in a no-decision last Friday against Cleveland.
Estrada is 7-3 with an 8.15 ERA in 18 appearances (17 starts) against the Yankees.
The Yankees have won 12 of the first 16 meetings with Toronto and six of seven at Yankee Stadium.