Acquiring Alfonso Soriano has given life to the New York Yankees' playoff hopes.
Facing the Toronto Blue Jays at home has fit that description the last two years.
After breaking out of a slump with a clutch homer, Soriano looks to help the Yankees beat the Blue Jays for a 13th straight meeting in the Bronx on Thursday.
In an effort to find a big bat, New York (67-59) re-acquired Soriano in a trade with the Chicago Cubs last month. The left fielder has provided everything the team needed, batting .284 with nine homers, 28 RBIs and 20 runs in 24 games. Eight of those homers and 24 of the RBIs have come in 13 victories.
Soriano came up big again Wednesday, connecting for a go-ahead, two-run shot with two outs in the eighth inning of a 4-2 win over Toronto (57-70). He had been 0 for 13 over the previous three games.
"I said, 'This is the chance now to do something impressive,'" Soriano told the team's official website. "Every game is very important for us. I just wanted to see a good one and make a good swing, and that's what happened."
The Yankees are 6 1/2 games behind East-leading Boston and four games back of Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
Concluding this four-game series with the Blue Jays would seem to play in their favor.
New York has won 21 of the past 23 meetings with the AL East rival at Yankee Stadium, including 12 in a row for the longest such streak by either team in the all-time series.
Andy Pettitte (8-9, 4.39) will try to pitch the Yankees to a fifth straight win overall by building on Friday's 10-3 victory at Boston. The left-hander didn't allow an earned run for the first time this season, as all three he gave up over 6 2-3 innings came courtesy of two errors by Eduardo Nunez.
"It was one of those nights where I felt like everything was working," Pettitte said.
Pettitte is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA in his last five starts against Toronto, winning both meetings at home while yielding three runs in 11 innings.
The Blue Jays, losers of four straight overall, are trying to win in the Bronx for the first time since Aug. 29.
They're expected to turn to J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.93), who has been very good in two starts since returning from a scary incident.
He pitched seven strong innings against Oakland on Aug. 12 in his first appearance after being hit in the head by a line drive May 7. The left-hander returned to the scene of that accident and limited Tampa Bay to two runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-2 victory Saturday.
"To me, that's over with," Happ told the team's official website. "I feel like I missed so much time. To me, it seemed like it took forever to get back."
Happ is 2-0 in four starts against the Yankees despite a 5.16 ERA. He didn't get a decision April 27, when he allowed three runs in six innings of a 5-4 loss in New York.
"He's got a good fastball that he can get good hitters out with," manager John Gibbons said. "It's hard to find good lefties, and he's definitely one of those guys. You never know what you're going to get coming off an injury like that and all the time he was out."
Happ has struggled versus Soriano, who is 3 for 9 with a homer and a double in their matchups.
The Associated Press News Service
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