The Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees hoped more would be at stake than second place, but the AL East rivals have faded from the playoff chase leading up to this series.
That’s certainly not how Derek Jeter wanted to go out as he plays the opener of his final homestand with New York.
The visiting Blue Jays will try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss Thursday night when R.A. Dickey goes after his fourth straight victory over the light-hitting Yankees.
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Toronto stood 3 1/2 games back and New York was four behind the second wild-card spot on Sept. 11. Since then, the Blue Jays have dropped five of six while the Yankees have gone 2-5, leaving them both six games back with only 11 remaining.
Jeter snapped an 0-for-28 slide with a single in Wednesday’s 3-2 win at Tampa Bay that snapped New York’s three-game losing streak.
”I don’t really know,” Jeter said on what his final home games will be like. ”I try not to anticipate anything. We’ll find out.”
A runner-up finish in the division might mean a bit more to the Blue Jays (77-74), who haven’t placed that high since finishing behind New York (77-74) in 2006.
Toronto, however, isn’t giving up on the postseason until it’s officially eliminated – even after its skid continued with Wednesday’s 6-1 defeat at division champ Baltimore.
”We’re going to a place where we need to go and win some games,” pitcher J.A. Happ said. ”We need to take advantage of the time we have. We’re still playing for something.”
Dickey (13-12, 3.84 ERA) owns a 15-inning scoreless streak against the Yankees after he surrendered five hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-0 home win April 5. He’s gone 4-2 with a 2.60 ERA in nine starts versus New York since 2011.
The right-hander is also looking to win five straight decisions overall for the first time since his 2012 NL Cy Young Award-winning season. He’s been particularly good in his last four outings, posting a 2.33 ERA.
Dickey won his third straight start Saturday, allowing three runs over seven innings in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay.
Jeter (2 for 17), Mark Teixeira (2 for 13) and Ichiro Suzuki (4 for 23) have scuffled when facing the knuckleballer.
Teixeira went 0 for 3 in his return to the lineup after he sat one game due to a nagging right wrist injury, though Carlos Beltran missed his second straight game because of a personal family matter.
Beltran posted on Facebook on Wednesday night that he and his wife lost their unborn son.
”It puts things in perspective,” Jeter said. ”The bottom-line, family is most important.”
The Yankees, who totaled 10 runs and batted .175 during a 2-5 trip, have provided just three runs of support for rookie right-hander Shane Greene (5-3, 3.56) in his last three starts. Those all came Saturday at Baltimore, where Greene allowed two runs with nine strikeouts – one shy of his season high – over 5 1-3 innings in a 3-2 win.
He did not get a decision against Toronto on July 27, giving up three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-4 home defeat.
Dioner Navarro is hitting .364 versus New York this season, but he’s day to day after taking a foul ball to the mask Tuesday. Slugger Jose Bautista has six homers in the season series.
The Blue Jays have dropped eight of the 15 meetings, including four of six at Yankee Stadium.