By Santosh Venkataraman
(AP) — A.J. Burnett has had trouble against the Toronto Blue Jays since joining the New York Yankees – and Jose Bautista in particular.
He’ll face the AL’s leading hitter for the second time this season as the Yankees and Blue Jays continue a three-game set Saturday.
Burnett (3-1, 3.52 ERA) is 1-4 with a 6.50 ERA in eight starts against his former team since he signed a five-year deal with New York (14-9) in December 2008. The Yankees have lost his last five starts against Toronto (13-13).
One of them was a 6-5, 10-inning road loss April 19 in which Bautista homered. Bautista is 5 for 11 with three homers against Burnett while Edwin Encarnacion is 5 for 11 with two homers.
Bautista continues to lead the AL in homers (nine), runs (25), walks (28) and batting average (.372). He hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning in Friday’s 5-3 victory.
J.P. Arencibia also went deep for Toronto, which has scored 32 runs and homered nine times in going 4-1 at the midpoint of this road trip.
Burnett lasted 5 1-3 innings against the Blue Jays earlier this month, yielding three runs.
The right-hander was much better his next time out, surrendering one run over a season-high eight innings in Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Burnett fell to 8-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 15 April starts with New York.
“I’m glad I was able to go deeper in the game,” Burnett said. “I just need to get consistency and keep working because I’ve got a long way to go.”
Saturday’s game will be his second matchup with Kyle Drabek (2-0, 3.30), who lasted 5 1-3 innings and yielded four runs against New York on April 19. Drabek will be making his first start in the Bronx against the Yankees, the club with which his father, Doug, broke into the big leagues with in 1986.
The Blue Jays have won all five of Drabek’s starts this season. He earned his first career road win Monday by limiting Texas to three runs over six innings in a 6-4 victory.
“I tried to slow the game down, stay relaxed throughout it,” Drabek said.
The 23-year-old right-hander has limited Robinson Cano to one hit in six at-bats, but the Yankees second baseman is red-hot.
Cano notched his seventh career multihomer game Friday. He’s homered in five of his last seven home games, with seven RBIs in his last four.
Manager Joe Girardi has indicated he will begin rotating his designated hitters after benching Jorge Posada on Friday in favor of Andruw Jones. Posada is hitless in his last 15 at-bats, and his average has sunk to .130.
The Yankees rued numerous missed opportunities Friday as they stranded a season-high 11 and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. They are hitless in their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Toronto.
“Can’t say we didn’t have our chances because we had a lot of them,” right fielder Nick Swisher said.
Mark Teixeira returned for New York after missing a game with a sore right shoulder. He had a single in four at-bats, but has gone seven straight games without an RBI.
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