(AP) — While Alex Rodriguez’s home run drought has kept him from making history, it’s his hitless streak that’s helped cost the New York Yankees their spot atop the AL East.
Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays, meanwhile, haven’t experienced too many problems at the plate lately.
While trying to keep the Blue Jays’ power surge going, Bautista will attempt to lead his team to its first series sweep in seven years over the Yankees, who hope to get the long-awaited 600th home run from Rodriguez and avoid a season-high fourth straight defeat Wednesday.
Rodriguez went 0 for 3 in Tuesday night’s 8-2 loss and hasn’t gotten a hit since the seventh inning Thursday in Cleveland, a span of 17 at-bats. The Yankees (66-40) have batted .169 while dropping four of those five games and their latest defeat pushed them into second place for the first time since June 12.
Rodriguez, who is trying to become the youngest player to reach 600 homers, is also 9 for 46 in 12 games since hitting No. 599 on July 22 against Kansas City. His longest home run drought of the season is 61 at-bats April 20-May 9.
“It’s hard to tell if a guy is pressing,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Right now, he’s in a little funk. Like I’ve said, sometimes these milestones are hard.”
Whether the Yankees can rejoin the Rays atop the division could depend on how well Phil Hughes (12-4, 4.07 ERA) can cool off Bautista and the Blue Jays. New York hasn’t dropped four in a row since a five-game skid May 2-7, 2009.
The Toronto outfielder hit his seventh home run in nine games and major league-best 33rd in the ninth inning Tuesday. Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill and Travis Snider also went deep for the Blue Jays (56-51), who have hit 23 of their major league-leading 167 homers during an 8-3 stretch.
“We’re doing a good job offensively,” Bautista said. “We’re coming up with big hits when we need them and solo shots here and there. That’s been the recipe for success lately.”
The Blue Jays, however, haven’t swept a series with the Yankees since taking a four-game road set May 22-25, 2003. It’s been even longer since their previous three-game sweep in New York – July 31-Aug. 2, 1992.
Given his recent efforts, Hughes could have a difficult time preventing Toronto from accomplishing that feat. He’s 2-3 with a 6.17 ERA in his last six starts and has given up 12 homers in his last eight outings after yielding four in his first 11 this season.
DeWayne Wise, Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind went deep off Hughes on July 4, but the right-hander didn’t receive a decision in the Yankees’ 7-6 comeback victory in 10 innings. He gave up five runs and six hits over six innings in that game, and is 1-1 with a 4.33 ERA in six career starts against Toronto.
The Blue Jays will send out right-hander Shaun Marcum (10-4, 3.24), who has won all three starts and posted a 2.04 ERA since returning from an inflamed pitching elbow July 18.
Marcum, who won four consecutive outings May 12-28, hasn’t faced the Yankees since Sept. 22, 2007. He’s 1-3 with a 6.29 ERA in eight career starts against them.
Rodriguez is 4 for 17 (.235) with one home run all-time versus Marcum.
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