As one veteran has faltered of late, the New York Yankees are hoping another can deliver in his return.
Andy Pettitte makes his first start in nearly three months Wednesday when the Yankees open a three-game series with a day-night doubleheader against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Owning a 10-game lead atop the AL East at one point, it could have been argued the Yankees (83-63) might not have missed the 40-year-old left-hander that much after he suffered a fractured ankle on a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.
But with CC Sabathia losing three of his last four starts and New York now tied with Baltimore atop the division, Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will be thrown right into the mix in the first game after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game Sept. 11.
Manager Joe Girardi likely will limit Pettitte to 70 pitches, and Tuesday's rainout made the left-hander more antsy to get back on the mound.
"I ain't gonna lie to you, I'm tired of talking about it," he told the Yankees' website after the rainout was made official. "I just want to go out there and pitch, and hopefully give this team a chance to win that ballgame (Wednesday), and move forward from there.
"I'm just ready to get out there. It's all about mechanics out there and getting into a good rhythm, stuff like that, so I think all that's going to be fine."
Pettitte did not face the Blue Jays this year before getting hurt. He is 21-12 versus Toronto - his second-most victories against any team - but is only 6-7 in 19 home starts.
The Yankees seem to have found some solid footing of late, taking two of three from both Boston and Tampa Bay, capped by a 6-4 victory over the Rays on Sunday when Russell Martin 's three-run homer highlighted a five-run third.
The Blue Jays pushed Tuesday's scheduled starter Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.87) to the nightcap of this twinbill, opting to send Henderson Alvarez (9-12, 4.91) to face Pettitte. The right-hander is trying to match a season high by winning a third straight start, also accomplished April 29-May 10.
Alvarez has been given 13 runs of support in his previous two outings and limited Seattle to three runs and five hits in seven innings of an 8-3 win Thursday. He failed to register a decision in either of his two starts versus the Yankees this year, giving up six runs and 10 hits - three of them home runs - in 9 1-3 innings.
While Alvarez has had some issues against the Yankees, Romero has had plenty versus New York - and every opposing team for nearly three months.
The left-hander is 0-13 with a 7.91 ERA in 14 starts since beating Miami on June 22, and his losing streak has tied a club record established by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979. New York has made a significant contribution to Romero's stretch of misery, giving him three of those defeats by reaching him for 11 runs in 20 innings.
Romero's woes continued versus Seattle on Wednesday, when he allowed three runs and eight hits with four walks and was pulled after four-plus innings in a 3-2 defeat. Despite the ongoing futility, manager John Farrell refuses to give up on the pitcher who won 42 games his first three years in the majors.
"We're not abandoning Ricky Romero ," Farrell said. "We're going to continue to work with him, we're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."
Romero is trying to avoid becoming the first pitcher to lose 14 consecutive decisions as a starter in a single season since Mike Parrott did so with the Mariners in 1980, accomplishing that dubious feat in 15 starts spanning April 15-Sept. 13, 1980.
Curtis Granderson , whose next home run will make him the first Yankee outfielder to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons since Mickey Mantle in 1960-61, is 4 for 21 with one home run and eight strikeouts versus Romero. Jayson Nix , though, is 7 for 12 with a double.
With no off days until the end of the regular season, the rainout forced Girardi to shuffle his rotation, and he will use rookie David Phelps (4-4, 3.39) in the second game. The right-hander pitched two-thirds of an inning versus Tampa Bay Sunday in relief, giving up one hit and one walk, but got a win in his last start Sept. 12 by limiting Boston to one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 victory.
Phelps's lone outing versus Toronto came Aug. 27, when he yielded four runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-7, 11-inning loss.
The Blue Jays will be without shortstop Yunel Escobar after the team suspended him for three games Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during Saturday's game against Boston.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 16, 2012||Edwin Encarnacion||Day-to-Day||Sore right big toe|
|September 04, 2012||J.A. Happ||15-Day DL||Fractured right foot|
|August 27, 2012||Henderson Alvarez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shin contusion|
|August 27, 2012||Aaron Laffey||Day-to-Day||Left game - left calf contusion|
|August 26, 2012||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 23, 2012||David Cooper||15-Day DL||Upper back soreness|
|New York Yankees|
|September 09, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|September 02, 2012||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 27, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 17, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
NEW YORK (AP) -- The chants of "Ich-i-ro" swelled in the eighth inning as the wiry batter with the slashing swing walked to home plate. With six hits already in this doubleheader, fans expected something special from the Japanese star.
Surprising even himself, Ichiro Suzuki delivered.
Suzuki had a go-ahead single in the eighth inning to help the New York Yankees complete a doubleheader sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-1 win Wednesday night that ensured they remained atop the AL East.
The 10-time All-Star's performance helped New York win its fourth straight and helped them keep a half-game lead in the division over Baltimore, which beat Seattle 3-1 in 11 innings on Wednesday night.
"I haven't done anything different today so I don't know what the difference was," Suzuki said through a translator.
The 38-year-old Suzuki made a difficult catch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of the opener to preserve a lead for Andy Pettitte in a 4-2 victory. He went 7 for 8 in the two games and stole four of New York's seven bases in the finale.
"I came in the middle of the season and I always wanted to contribute, wanted to help in this pennant race and today is a great day that I was able to help," said Suzuki, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle in late July. "I'm very sad the day is over."
He had three hits in the opener batting leadoff in place of Derek Jeter , who rested his sore ankle in the first game of the day-night doubleheader. Jeter started at shortstop for the first time in a week in the nightcap and got his 200th hit on Ricky Romero 's first pitch.
The single to center tied Jeter with Lou Gehrig for most 200-hit seasons for New York with eight.
Feeling nervous and out of sync at shortstop after the long layoff, Jeter was most impressed with Suzuki's day.
"That's tough to do," Jeter said. "Doubleheader. I don't think I've ever done that in a doubleheader. I've been on the other side of it maybe an 0 for 8."
Rafael Soriano closed both games, notching his 41st and 42nd saves, the first time he saved two in one day.
The Blue Jays, playing their first doubleheader against the Yankees since 1986, were without shortstop Yunel Escobar , who began a three-game suspension for wearing eye black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.
Toronto dropped to 66-81, guaranteeing it will not have a winning record this season.
With the score 1-all, Curtis Granderson was walked by Steve Delabar (4-3) to open the eighth. He moved up on Jayson Nix 's sacrifice and stole third. With two outs, Suzuki guided an opposite field hit to left for the lead. Suzuki stole two bases in the inning.
"It was just an unbelievable day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Cody Eppley (1-2) got one out for his first win since April 27, 2011, for Texas against Toronto.
David Phelps followed Pettitte's sparkling five-inning return to the mound from a broken lower left leg by pitching into the seventh. He gave up one run and three hits.
Romero remained tied for the Blue Jays record with 13 straight losses and walked five to up his AL-leading total to 99. It was his third game in which he allowed one run and didn't win - two no-decisions.
"I had a good delivery," Romero said. "That's one of the things I battled myself all year."
Adeiny Hechavarria 's RBI single in the second after Phelps walked was just the 24th run Toronto has scored in Romero's last 13 starts.
In the bottom half, Chris Stewart drove in a run with a double to left that bounced over the wall and prevented Suzuki from scoring from first. Suzuki had singled and Nix was thrown out trying to score on a strong throw by center fielder Colby Rasmus . Romero had walked two to set up the tying run.
Romero was finished after allowing seven hits in six innings. He struck out five.
In the opener, Pettitte (4-3) gave up four hits in his first start since a hot shot off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman broke his left fibula on June 27.
"He gave us everything that we asked for," Girardi said.
Pettitte struggled a bit with his command, walking two, but kept the Blue Jays from hitting the ball hard with a biting breaking ball. He put runners on in each of his first four innings and had a runner on third in the second through fourth innings. But he got timely groundouts in the second, third - a double play - and fourth to avoid trouble. Then had a six-pitch fifth to earn the win.
"My arm feels great. My break area feels great. I'm a hundred percent," Pettitte said. "Just real happy with how my arm is feeling. More than anything it's my legs. I just got to get my legs back in shape."
With the 40-year-old lefty on a 75-pitch limit, Girardi mixed and matched liberally, using six relievers.
Clay Rapada , Derek Lowe , Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan held Toronto scoreless through seven innings. Then Robertson gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson and a run-scoring double to Omar Vziquel in the eighth.
Soriano relieved with two outs and runners on second and third. He walked Anthony Gose after a foul drive that landed about a foot foul down the left-field line. Rajai Davis followed with a sinking liner to left field that Suzuki caught, pulling the glove to his stomach to protect the ball.
"I'm glad I don't have a big belly because if I did it might've hit the belly and popped out," Suzuki said through a translator.
Toronto's 45-year-old Vizquel had two hits to move past Babe Ruth for 41st on the career list at 2,874.
NOTES: Suzuki is the first Yankee with seven hits in a day in 29 years, since Dave Winfield , according to STATS LLC.Robinson. ... Cano had an RBI double and Granderson a sacrifice fly in the opener ... Toronto's Henderson Alvarez (9-13) allowed five hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high seven. ... Toronto DH Edwin Encarnacion (sore right big toe) did not play in the either game. ... To make room for Pettitte on the 40-man roster, the Yankees recalled RHP Dellin Betances from the minors and placed him on the 60-day DL.