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.
While Yankees captain Derek Jeter, on the DL with a strained calf, won't be activated when first eligible Tuesday, Toronto's Jose Reyes (right knee) could return following a two-game absence.
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