Liriano returns as Blue Jays face Yankees (Jun 02, 2017)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays will be going with somewhat of an unknown quantity Friday night when Francisco Liriano comes off the disabled list to start against the New York Yankees.
The Yankees, however, know pretty well what to expect from their starting pitcher, Michael Pineda, who has been consistently good this season.
It puts the Yankees in a good spot after they won the opener of a four-game series at Rogers Centre 12-2 on Thursday night.
Liriano (2-2, 6.35 ERA) has not pitched for Toronto since May 10, when he allowed seven runs in two innings against the Cleveland Indians before going on the disabled list due to left shoulder inflammation. In his previous start, on May 5, he lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It could mean the Blue Jays' bullpen will be in for a busy night against a Yankees lineup that showed its depth on Thursday night while receiving a career-best six RBIs from Aaron Hicks and two home runs from Gary Sanchez.
Aaron Judge, who leads the majors with 17 homers, was held to an RBI single and a walk.
Sanchez hit 20 homers in the final two months of last season.
"To me, he hasn't caught fire yet," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sanchez, missed more than three weeks this season because of a right biceps injury.
"If we get him hot, this lineup is going to be tough to deal with," said New York left-hander CC Sabathia, who earned the win Thursday with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Sabathia also moved into fourth place all-time in strikeouts for a left-handed pitcher with 2,779.
Pineda (6-2, 3.32 ERA) has allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine straight starts, and the Yankees are 8-2 in his starts this season. He already has matched his win total from last season, when he was 6-12. He is 2-3 with a 3.11 ERA in 11 career starts against the Blue Jays.
Liriano is 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 career games (nine starts) against the Yankees.
The Blue Jays expect catcher Russell Martin and second baseman Devon Travis to return to the lineup Friday as well. They were given Thursday off to rest some nagging ailments.
Besides, Travis is 1-for-20 in his career against Sabathia. Darwin Barney, who played second base Thursday, was 3-for-9 against Sabathia, although he was 0-for-2 vs. Sabathia on Thursday and 0-for-3 overall.
Travis had offseason knee surgery, and much of his spring training was devoted to rehabilitation. He has been hot at the plate lately, though.
Travis had 16 doubles in May to take the major league lead with 18 for the season. Only Carlos Delgado (19 in 2000) and John Olerud (17 in 1993) have hit more doubles in one month for the Blue Jays.
Travis batted .364 during May, so his bat would be a welcome addition on Friday. He has hits in 14 of his past 15 games, with 10 doubles and four homers. He is batting .435 since May 14.
"We've always known he's a good hitter," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, "but he's got a chance to be the player of the month (for May). He's doing what we've seen him do in the past. He's driving the baseball. He's a good hitter, bottom line. He's going to be a good hitter his whole career."
The idea is to give him the occasional break.
"We're thinking six months, not 2 1/2 months," Gibbons said.
The return of Martin should also help on Friday.
He has hits in 10 of his past 11 games, batting .333 (13-for-39) with a double and two home runs in that span. Martin is batting .450 (9-for-20) during a six-game hitting streak.
Martin also provides flexibility. He started at third base for the fifth time this season on Wednesday. His career high for starts at third base is eight, in 2008. On Friday, he will most likely be where he is best, behind the plate.