After making a dent in the AL East deficit with last week's three-game home sweep, the New York Yankees have a chance to take over the division lead with another three games against the Toronto Blue Jays.
With Brett Gardner looking to continue his success in this season series, the Yankees try to take a step toward catching the banged-up Blue Jays starting Monday night at Rogers Centre.Trailing by 4 1-2 games in the division heading into last week's series at Yankee Stadium, New York (39-35) pulled off the sweep that moved it to 5-1 against Toronto in 2014.The Blue Jays' advantage remains 1 1-2 games over New York and Baltimore after Toronto and the Yankees dropped their second consecutive contests Sunday.Ichiro Suzuki had two hits, while Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury had the only others in an 8-0 home loss to Baltimore. New York totaled one run and 11 hits in the final two of a 4-2 homestand.Gardner went 6 for 12 with a home run, double and two RBIs in last week's series against the Blue Jays, including a season-best four-hit effort to help make a winner out of Chase Whitley (3-0, 2.56 ERA) in Wednesday's 7-3 victory.Mark Teixeira, who had his 10-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, is 5 for 12 against the Blue Jays in 2014. Teixeira left in the eighth after getting hit on the toes of his left foot by a slider from T.J. McFarland, but manager Joe Girardi said that X-rays were negative."I thought it was broken again. I took it out on my helmet," Teixeira said. "Just breathing a sigh of relief right now."Whitley will try to win his fourth consecutive start by beating Toronto again after allowing two runs over five innings Wednesday. The rookie right-hander hasn't given up more than two earned runs in his last four starts."We had never seen him as a starter," Girardi said. "So our expectations have changed a lot."Whitley will be facing a short-handed Toronto lineup this time after Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie left Sunday's 4-3 loss at Cincinnati. Lawrie sustained a broken index finger when he was hit by a pitch, while Bautista had tightness in his hamstring and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday."It's definitely tough," said Lawrie, who said he expects to be placed on the disabled list. "We're big pieces of the puzzle, especially (Bautista). It's tough on the team to not have all its bullets. We just have to keep on grinding."Jose Reyes, who didn't start Sunday after fouling a ball off the side of his left knee the day before, pinch ran for Bautista and remained in the game at shortstop. The speedy leadoff man has gone 1 for 20 in his last five games and is 2 for 14 against New York in 2014.Edwin Encarnacion hit his major league-leading 24th home run and Melky Cabrera added two hits Sunday, but Toronto (42-35) lost for the 11th time in 15 games. Former Yankee Cabrera has six homers and 14 RBIs during a 19-game hitting streak against New York.Marcus Stroman (3-2, 5.14) is 2-2 with a 2.91 ERA in his four starts, though he's looking to give the Blue Jays a better performance after throwing 98 pitches in 3 2/3 innings of a 3-1 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday.The rookie right-hander allowed three walks, four hits and two runs in his shortest outing since joining the rotation.Gardner hit a go-ahead home run off Stroman in that contest.