Blue Jays-Yankees preview

NEW YORK — There was a time when the Toronto Blue Jays could never win at Yankee Stadium.

Times have changed and now it is the New York Yankees who rarely win home games against the Blue Jays.

The AL East rivals will begin a three-game series that will be significant for different reasons Monday afternoon.

From Sept 19, 2012 through July 25, 2014, the Yankees won 17 straight meetings in New York and outscored the Blue Jays 89-46. Since the skid, Toronto has won 14 of the last 21 meetings in New York but since the start of last season when Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin joined the team, the Blue Jays have won 11 of the 15 meetings in New York.

Donaldson and Martin have had varying degrees of success in those games but enter Monday on hot streaks. Donaldson is 12-for-64 (.188) in New York over the last two seasons but is batting .347 (17-for-49) over his last 13 games, although he had a 12-game hitting streak snapped during Sunday's 5-3 win at Tampa Bay.

Martin, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons in New York, is batting .298 (14-for-47) with six home runs and 18 RBI at Yankee Stadium as a Blue Jay. He also is batting .338 (23-for-68) with nine home runs and 24 RBI in his last 18 games after hitting a tiebreaking two-run home run in the eighth inning Sunday.

Martin's home run on a 3-0 count ended a streak of 27 innings without a home run for Toronto but more importantly helped the Blue Jays take a one-game lead over the Red Sox.

“We kind of smelled the win,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who took over when manager John Gibbons was ejected in the fourth during a Martin at-bat. “The dugout got a little emotional. We had the bullpen set up. The guys in the middle did their job to get the ball to (Joaquin) Benoit, (Jason) Grilli and Osuna. It's a good effort by this team, and hopefully we can carry it into New York.”

Toronto has held a share of the division lead every day since Aug. 16 which was the same day it stormed back from a five-run deficit for a 12-6 victory in New York following a 42-minute rain delay.

Since scoring 19 runs in their last two games at New York, the Blue Jays have won eight of their last 15 games and have split the first six games of their nine-game trip which leads into next weekend's three-game series with Boston.

The Yankees were in first place when the teams met last August but shortly after Toronto's sweep fell out. They have been chasing deficits in the standings ever since.

New York is in fourth place at 6 1/2 games out in the division. In the crowded wild card race, the Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore.

The Yankees (70-65) began this weekend with a chance to get into the lead with a sweep but dropped two of three with shutout losses. New York rebounded with a 5-2 victory Sunday when Chase Headley and Austin Romine drove in two runs apiece.

“You can't afford to lose three in a row to these guys,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We know they play really well in this building. We lost a tough one last night. To be able to bounce back today is important. It keeps us alive.”

Monday will start a 10-game homestand for the Yankees. New York has four with Tampa Bay and three with the Los Angeles before going on an 11-game trip that features four-game series in Toronto and Boston.

“This was a big win. We needed it,” Romine said. “We just need to keep the rhythm moving into the next game and see if we can get on a roll.”

R.A. Dickey has been on the mound for Toronto's two losses in New York this season but run support has been the issue. The Blue Jays were shut out in both games on May 24 and Aug. 15 while Dickey allowed five runs and nine hits in 11 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays have scored 16 times in his last two starts and Dickey has allowed seven runs and 12 hits over 12 2/3 innings. Dickey did not get a decision Aug. 28 when he threw 64 pitches in six innings and the Blue Jays rallied for a 9-6 victory over Minnesota.

Dickey is 7-6 with an 2.72 ERA (36 ER, 119 IP) in 22 appearances against the Yankees.

The Yankees will send out their best starting option when Masahiro Tanaka starts and puts his five-game unbeaten streak on the line. Tanaka is 11-4 with a 3.12 ERA this season and since a 7-1 loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 2 he is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

The right-hander did not face the Blue Jays in the last series but is 5-3 with an 2.28 ERA in nine career starts.

Tanaka will also be pitching on five days rest and he has done better with extended rest, going 8-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 15 starts.