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Win Would Clinch Playoff Spot For Yankees

A.J. Burnett

Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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TORONTO (AP) — Heading into the final week of the season, the New York Yankees’ magic number to make the playoffs is down to one.

The Yankees hope to secure a postseason berth and get A.J. Burnett back on track Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

New York (93-63) snapped a four-game losing streak and closed within one-half game of AL East-leading Tampa Bay with Sunday’s 4-3, 10-inning win over Boston. The wild card-leading Yankees moved 6 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox and need either one more victory or one Boston loss to return to the playoffs and defend their World Series title.

“We still want to win our division. We still want to get home-field advantage, and we’re fighting like crazy to do that,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Although it’s almost certain the Yankees will be playing baseball next week, there are a few things they need to shore up to make another title run.

All-Star closer Mariano Rivera blew his third save since Sept. 11 Sunday, allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. He’s yielded at least one run in each of his last three appearances and has a 9.53 ERA in his last six save opportunities.

Burnett (10-14, 5.05 ERA) has also been shaky on the mound lately for the Yankees, who are 7-8 against the Blue Jays this year and have dropped four of six in Toronto.

Burnett’s last start Wednesday against Tampa Bay was cut short in the third inning by a 2 hour, 11 minute rain delay, the second time in three starts the weather shortened his outing. The right-hander allowed one run and two hits against the Rays in a 7-2 defeat.

Burnett, 1-6 with a 6.16 ERA since the start of August, has yielded 22 home runs, and could have trouble keeping the high-powered Blue Jays in the park.

Toronto (80-75), which extended its winning streak to four with Sunday’s 5-2 victory over Baltimore, leads the majors with 241 homers and needs four more to break the franchise record set in 2000.

Jose Bautista, baseball’s leader with 52 home runs, is batting .320 with six homers, 12 RBIs and a .507 on-base percentage against New York this year. He’s also 4 for 7 with two homers and a double against Burnett, who pitched for the Blue Jays from 2006-08.

Burnett is 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA in three starts against his former team this year and has a 7.24 ERA in losing both starts at Rogers Centre with the Yankees.

Marc Rzepczynski (2-4, 5.75), Toronto’s scheduled starter, also hasn’t had much luck in this series.

Rzepczynski allowed two runs and seven hits while matching a season high with eight strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over Seattle, snapping a six-start winless drought.

Two of the outings during that stretch came against the Yankees. The left-hander, 0-2 with a 10.47 ERA in four career starts against New York, allowed six runs in three innings of an 11-5 loss to the Yankees on Aug. 24 and permitted five runs in four innings in the Bronx on Sept. 4.

Several Yankees have given Rzepczynski trouble. Nick Swisher is 4 for 6 with a homer, Mark Teixeira is 3 for 8 with a home run and Robinson Cano is 3 for 9 with a homer. Rzepczynski has held Alex Rodriguez without a hit in four at-bats, however.

Rodriguez, who homered for the fourth time in three games Sunday, needs one more to reach the 30-homer mark for the 13th consecutive season.

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