Tied with O's for lead in AL East, Yankees visit Blue Jays

The Sports Network

9/30/2012 11:40:21 AM

(Sports Network) - The New York Yankees need a big effort from Phil Hughes on Sunday if they plan on maintaining at least a share of the American League East lead. For that to happen, though, Hughes will need to reverse his recent fortunes north of the border when the Yankees close out a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

New York lost sole possession of first place in the division on Saturday, as Rajai Davis went 3-for-4 with a solo home run and an RBI single, and Toronto held the Yankees scoreless after the first inning to earn a 3-2 victory.

The Yankees, who have lost two of the first three in this set, fell into a tie with Baltimore atop the AL East with four games remaining. The Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox, 4-3, Saturday night.

New York's magic number to clinch a playoff berth remains at two. After Sunday's series finale, the Yankees will host the Red Sox for their final three games of the regular season.

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero exited after the third inning with a knee injury, and five Blue Jays relievers combined to allow only three hits and two walks to carry the club to its fourth win in six games.

Shawn Hill (1-0) hurled three hitless innings to earn the win.

"An outstanding job by the bullpen today," Blue Jays manager John Farrell commented. "Ricky was suffering from some discomfort in that left kneecap area, just above it, where the quadricep attaches to it."

Andy Pettitte (5-4), who tossed 11 scoreless frames in his previous two starts off the disabled list, surrendered three runs on five hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings to take the loss.

"We had plenty of opportunities today to get some runs. We just didn't get it done," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Hughes, meanwhile, has lost both of his starts in Toronto this season and has allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 innings of those outings. He's 2-2 in five starts against them this season, but beat the Jays two starts ago, as he allowed four runs and struck out nine in five innings.

The 26-year-old right-hander had a three-start winning streak stopped on Tuesday against lowly Minnesota, which reached him for four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He is 16-13 on the year with a 4.10 ERA.

"There are some games when you deserve to win and you don't, and some games when you don't deserve to win and you do," Hughes said afterward. "That's just kind of the way it goes. I've been a recipient of some run support, which is nice. It's nice to get wins, but it's better for a team to get wins, especially at a time when you really need them."

Toronto will counter with righty Henderson Alvarez, who is 9-14 with a 4.91 ERA. Alvarez lost for the seventh time in nine decisions on Monday in Baltimore, as he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Alvarez lost to the Yankees two starts ago and is 0-1 i four starts against them with a 5.64 ERA.

New York has won 10 of 17 from the Jays this season.

Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles

(Sports Network) - The Baltimore Orioles would certainly prefer to go into the playoffs as division champions and not having to play a one-game playoff as a wild card team.

The Orioles enter Sunday tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. Baltimore hosts the Boston Red Sox, who will try to avoid a 90th loss of the season in the conclusion of this three-game series.

The O's haven't made the playoffs since 1997, but are inching closer to the postseason. Their magic number to secure at least a wild card berth is two. They hold a one-game edge on Oakland for the AL's No. 1 wild card berth and are 3 1/2 games up on the Los Angeles Angels in the standings.

The Orioles will be scoreboard watching today. New York dropped a 3-2 verdict to Toronto on Saturday and the teams conclude their series at Rogers Centre. After today, Baltimore finishes with three games against Tampa Bay on the road, while the Yankees host the Red Sox.

Joe Saunders, who is 0-2 over his last three starts, gets the mound assignment today for the Orioles. The left-hander holds a 4-2 mark with a 4.17 ERA in nine games against the Red Sox.

Boston, which hasn't lost at least 90 games since 1966, will send Zach Stewart to the mound. The righty, who turned 26 two days ago, will make his second start as a Red Sox. Stewart was traded from the Chicago White Sox on June 24 in the deal that sent Kevin Youkilis to the Windy City.

Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox

(Sports Network) - The Chicago White Sox have picked the absolute worst time to play their worst baseball of the season. On Sunday, they try to keep their American League Central title hopes alive when they play the finale of a four- game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field.

Chicago fell two games back of the Detroit Tigers in the division on Saturday with its ninth loss in 11 games. It won't get any easier for the White Sox On Sunday, as they go up against AL Cy Young Award candidate David Price, who will be trying for his 20th win.

Price was magnificent on Tuesday in Boston, as he held the Red Sox to two runs and seven hits and struck out 13 in the complete game effort to improve to 19-5, while lowering his ERA to 2.56.

Tampa, meanwhile, kept its postseason hopes alive on Saturday, as Matt Joyce belted a pair of home runs to back a terrific rebound start from Matt Moore in the Rays' 10-4 rout of the White Sox.

The win, Tampa Bay's ninth in its last 10 contests, kept the club three games back of Oakland for one of the American League's two wild card berths with four remaining. The Athletics rallied for a 7-4, 10-inning win over Seattle on Saturday.

Hoping for a better effort on Sunday, the White Sox will rely on 23-year-old left-hander Jose Quintana, who is 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA. Quintana hasn't started since losing to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sept. 22 when he allowed four runs (1 earned) and walked five batters in five innings.

Chicago swept an early-season series against the Rays from May 28-30 and has won seven of the past 12 matchups between the two clubs.

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins

(Sports Network) - Anibal Sanchez was sensational in his last start. The right-hander tries for his 10th win of the season Sunday and tries to move the Detroit Tigers closer to a division title when they conclude a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

The Tigers are two games clear of the Chicago White Sox for first place in the AL Central with only four games remaining. The White Sox conclude their home series against Tampa Bay today.

Sanchez fanned 10 in throwing a three-hit shutout against Kansas City on Tuesday. He's been inconsistent in his 11 starts with the Tigers since being traded from Miami.

This will be his second start against the Twins. On Aug. 13 at Target Field, he was pounded for 12 hits and five runs in a 9-3 loss.

Liam Hendriks, who gave up six runs in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees on Monday, returns to the mound today for the Twins. He's 0-5 with a 5.21 ERA in eight home starts.

The Tigers hold a 9-8 lead in the season series.

Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners

(Sports Network) - Tommy Milone aims to pitch the Oakland Athletics to a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners on Sunday at the Coliseum and get them closer to a playoff spot in the process.

Oakland pulled out a thrilling win on Saturday, as Josh Donaldson belted the tying two- run homer in the ninth inning and Brandon Moss won it with a three- run shot in the 10th to give the Athletics a dramatic 7-4 triumph.

The A's -- winners in 14 of 19 at home -- reduced their magic number to three for clinching its first playoff berth since 2006. While they currently occupy one of the AL wild card spots, the A's also just 2 1/2 games back of the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

Oakland, which closes its regular season with three games against Texas, can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday with a win and a Tampa Bay loss to Chicago, plus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim losing both of their games to the Rangers.

Milone has been terrific for Oakland this season posting a 13-10 mark to go along with a 3.74 ERA. Milone has not received a decision in his last two starts, but pitched well enough to get the win on Tuesday against Texas, as he surrendered two unearned run and six hits in six innings of a 3-2 win.

He's 2-1 in four starts versus the Mariners with a 2.42 ERA.

Seattle will counter with righty Erasmo Ramirez, who is 1-3 with a 3.42 ERA. Ramirez lost to the Angels on Tuesday, as he allowed five runs (3 earned) and seven hits in six innings.

Ramirez has faced the A's twice (1 start) and is 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA against them.

The A's lead the season series with Seattle, 11-7, and have won six straight and eight of the last nine matchups between the teams.

Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels

(Sports Network) - It's almost certain that the Texas Rangers are going to reach the postseason. But, nailing down that spot hasn't been so easy.

They get a chance to clinch at least a wild card berth on Sunday, though, when they play a day/night doubleheader against the surging Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The twin bill was made necessary due to a postponement on Saturday.

However, both teams took a dip in the playoff standings thanks to the unexpected off day, as Oakland rallied to beat Seattle in extra innings to move within 2 1/2 games of the Rangers in the American League West, while pushing their advantage in the wild card to 2 1/2 games over the Angels.

One win on Sunday will nail down a playoff spot for the Rangers, who could also secure their third straight division title with a sweep and an Oakland loss.

Los Angeles could keep the champagne on ice in game one, as Zack Greinke goes after fifth straight winning decision. The former AL Cy Young Award winner improved to 6-2 as a member of the Angels on Tuesday, as he held the Seattle Mariners to a run and five hits and struck out 13 in five innings.

Texas, meanwhile, will go with a hot pitcher of its own in the first tilt, handing the ball to Japanese righty Yu Darvish, who is 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA. Darvish won his second straight start and fourth consecutive decision back on Sept. 20 against the Angels, limiting them to a run and four hits in eight innings. He also struck out nine in that one and has fanned at least eight batters in seven of his last eight starts.

Darvish, who was scratched from his last start with a stiff neck, is 3-1 in five starts against the Angels this season.

Texas will hand the ball in game two to lefty Derek Holland, who has won his last four decisions and is 11-6 with a 4.50 ERA. Holland only lasted three innings on Monday against Oakland, though, as he surrendered three runs and four hits with two walks. However, he did not factor in the decision of his team's 5-4 win.

Opposing Holland will be righty Ervin Santana, who is 9-12 with a 4.93 ERA. Santana was terrific in beating the Chicago White Sox his last time out back on Sept. 21 when he allowed a run and two hits and struck out 11 in seven innings.

Santana, who can become a free agent at season's end, has pitched to a 2.88 ERA since the start of August, but has served up a major league-high 36 home runs on the season.