With the drama surrounding New York's third baseman unlikely to go away anytime soon, Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are trying to keep their focus on the field.
New York tries to keep rolling in Tuesday's doubleheader against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays, losers of nine straight in the Bronx.
The 38-year-old Rodriguez has given the Yankees (64-59) a huge left since coming off the disabled list Aug. 5, going 12 for 32 (.375) with two homers and six RBIs during the club's 6-2 run.
Rodriguez came up especially big in Sunday's 9-6 win at Boston. After getting hit by a Ryan Dempster fastball in the second inning, Rodriguez responded with his 649th career homer in the sixth to spark a four-run rally.
"Whether you like me or hate me, what's wrong is wrong. That was unprofessional and silly," he said of getting plunked. "Today kind of brought us together."
Besides his suspension, Rodriguez is at odds with Yankees management over the more than $80 million he is owned through 2017. Rodriguez's lawyer also declined Major League Baseball's challenge to make public evidence that led to the slugger's suspension.
"I'm not sure how I would feel if I was on a different team, but Alex is my teammate and obviously I'm glad to have him back in the room," Brett Gardner told MLB's official website. "We know that we're at a point in the season where we've got to play every game like it's our last."
The Yankees try to take advantage of playing the Blue Jays (57-67) in New York, where they've won 18 of 20, including nine straight by a 47-25 margin. They've also won 19 of 25 in the series overall.
Toronto dropped two of three at Tampa Bay over the weekend, falling 2-1 in 10 innings on Sunday. Edwin Encarnacion hit his team-leading 31st homer, but the Blue Jays suffered their seventh walkoff loss and eighth in extras.
"If you're going to play in prime time, you've got to win those games," manager John Gibbons said.
Taking the mound for New York in Game 1 is Ivan Nova (6-4, 2.99 ERA), who is 4-2 with a 1.89 ERA in his last seven starts. The right-hander allowed a season-high 10 hits but managed to limit the damage Wednesday, yielding three runs in 7 1-3 innings in an 11-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels .
Nova, 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA in four career home starts versus Toronto, will square off against Esmil Rogers (3-7, 4.91). The right-hander had posted a 14.59 ERA in losing a season-high three consecutive starts before throwing six innings of one-run ball in Wednesday's 4-3, 10-inning win over Boston.
The Yankees hope to see Phil Hughes (4-12, 4.97) get back on track in Game 2. The right-hander is looking to snap a career-worst five-game skid after yielding three runs in six innings in Thursday's 8-4 loss to the Angels.
Mark Buehrle (9-7, 4.29), meanwhile, has gone 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA over a five-start stretch. He allowed 10 hits but only gave up one run in seven innings in a 2-1 win over Boston on Thursday.
"I'm just trying to get on a roll right now," he said. "I'm going out there trying to compete and trying to win."
Buehrle has gone 1-10 versus New York while compiling a 6.28 ERA - his highest mark against any team. He was tagged for five runs in six innings in a 5-0 road loss May 17, dropping to 0-8 with an 8.01 ERA in his last 11 starts against the Yankees.
Rodriguez is 8 for 33 with just one extra-base hit against Buehrle.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
|August 07, 2013||Josh Johnson||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|August 03, 2013||Steve Delabar||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 02, 2013||Melky Cabrera||15-Day DL||Left knee strain|
|New York Yankees|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||Day-to-Day||Calf|
|July 27, 2013||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Strained right rotator cuff|
|July 23, 2013||Luis Cruz||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|July 20, 2013||Zoilo Almonte||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|July 19, 2013||Zoilo Almonte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left ankle sprain|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Robinson Cano was much more excited about the Yankees' latest win than his milestone homer.
Cano got his 200th career home run among his four hits and drove in four runs, Chris Stewart hit a go-ahead three-run drive, and the Yankees rallied to hand the Toronto Blue Jays their record 10th straight loss in New York, 8-4 Tuesday in the opener of a split doubleheader.
The Yankees won for the seventh time in 10 games but are still six games out of an AL wild card.
"Right now we're in a situation that we need to win games," Cano said. "It's good to hit 200 but it's great to win."
Cano was a triple shy of the cycle on a perfect day at the plate. He hit a three-run homer off Esmil Rogers in the third to pull New York within a run and added a RBI double in the seventh.
Ichiro Suzuki singled and doubled, leaving him one shy of 4,000 combined hits during his careers in Japan and the major leagues. With fans standing and chanting "Ichi-ro!" in the eighth, he grounded out. Suzuki was not in the lineup for the second game.
"Four thousand is just as important as any other number for me," Suzuki said through a translator.
New York's Ivan Nova (7-4) was tagged for four runs in the second inning when Toronto batted around in the makeup of a rained-out game on May 19. But he scattered five hits the rest of his outing that ended with one out and Jose Reyes on first in the seventh inning.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases with two outs on consecutive walks by Shawn Kelley , but Brett Lawrie flied out to center field to end the threat.
Mariano Rivera was called on to get the final two outs after Joba Chamberlain walked Rajai Davis with one out in the ninth.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista was removed from the team's seventh straight loss to the Yankees before the bottom of the fourth inning because of soreness in his left hip. The Blue Jays last lost seven in a row to New York in 1999.
Manager John Gibbons said Bautista was having tests on the hip and would not be available for the nightcap.
"He felt it a couple of days ago and said it was no big deal but all of that standing around in the outfield during all of those pitches aggravated it," Gibbons said. "He hurt it on a slide, maybe our last game back home but it wasn't enough to knock him out."
During the game, Major League Baseball announced Yankees manager Joe Girardi was fined $5,000 for his on-field tirade after Boston's Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Sunday. Dempster was suspended five games and fined $2,500.
Girardi refused to comment on the suspension and fines but did reiterate what he said earlier in the day, that he's worried a light penalty would encourage "open season" on A-Rod.
"We'll find out," Girardi said. "I sure hope not."
Yankees fans appeared to ease up on the booing of Rodriguez in the team's first game back in New York after he homered and had three hits to lead a comeback win over Boston following Dempster's plunking. When A-Rod ducked out of the way of Rogers' high pitch Tuesday, fans lustily jeered the right-hander.
Rodriguez singled to start the sixth - to cheers - and he scored on Stewart's fourth homer of the season, a shot to left field off Neil Wagner (2-4) that put New York ahead 6-4.
Stewart went 173 at-bats since May 15 against Seattle before connecting for his next homer.
The Yankees have scored 57 runs over their last seven games, and Cano is impressed.
"You can see a different lineup," Cano said of New York's recent success at the plate. "You've got (Alfonso) Soriano. You got (Curtis) Granderson, Alex. It's been a huge difference."
Rogers was lifted after Rodriguez's single. He allowed four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings.
Davis' two-run double with two outs in the second highlighted the four-run second. Maicer Izturis had a run-scoring single, and Kevin Pillar got his first RBI with a groundout to shortstop. Pillar still doesn't have a big league hit, though. He went 0 for 4 and is hitless in 17 at-bats.
"He pitched well. He made his mistakes early and we didn't put good wood on anything after that second inning," Davis said of Nova. "We had bases loaded and didn't get guys in; it happens sometimes."
Cano had an RBI double in the seventh, and Brett Gardner added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
NOTES: Suzuki has 1,278 hits in Japan and 2,721 in the majors. ... Yankees SS Derek Jeter (right calf strain) played his second simulated game at the team's complex in Tampa, Fla. He ran the bases for the first time. ... Blue Jays RHP Thad Weber was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on Monday but was recalled as the 26th man for the doubleheader. ... Toronto LHP Mark Buehrle (9-7) is set to start Game 2 against New York RHP Phil Hughes (4-12).