(Sports Network) - The Toronto Blue Jays have the unenviable task of slowing down red-hot Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees when the American League East foes kick off a three-game set this evening at Rogers Centre.
Cano and the Yankees enter tonight's tilt following an impressive 6-1 homestand that culminated with a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. New York completed the sweep on Thursday, as Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner homered and CC Sabathia tossed seven solid innings in a 6-3 win.
"It's definitely big for us," Rodriguez said of finishing off the series sweep. "We wanted to get back to playing our style of baseball here at home. Regardless of who we play, if we do what we have to do, we should win more than not."
Sabathia (5-3) allowed three runs on three hits while walking one and striking out seven to win for the first time since May 3. Joba Chamberlain tossed a shutout eighth inning before Mariano Rivera stranded two runners in the ninth to earn his 12th save of the season.
The Yankees have taken eight in a row from Baltimore after dropping the first game of the season series.
Cano had a run-producing double to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, one off his career-high. He is hitting .465 with 20 RBI during the streak, and his .555 clip (20-for-36) over the last nine games has catapulted him to a major league-leading .373 average.
"He has an idea now when he goes up there exactly what he's looking for," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said of Cano earlier in the week. The other thing is, the more you play, the more you understand what other teams are trying to do to you. You've seen the pitcher before. When he swings at strikes, he hits the ball hard, and when he hits the ball hard, good things happen."
Tonight the Yankees turn to former Blue Jay A.J. Burnett, who is 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA on the year. Burnett won his second straight start Sunday against Cleveland, as he held the Indians to three runs (one earned) and five hits in eight innings. He also struck out eight batters without walking one.
Burnett, who pitched from 2006-08 in Toronto, is 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA in four games against his former team. He won a career-best 18 games for the Jays in 2008.
Toronto will counter with 23-year-old lefty Brett Cecil, who has won his last three starts. Cecil got the best of the Orioles on Saturday, holding them to a pair of runs and four hits in eight innings to run his record to 5-2 and lower his ERA to 3.81.
Cecil is 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA in his two starts against the Yankees.
The Jays, who are in the midst of a nine-game stretch against only Tampa Bay and the Yankees, dropped the final two games in their three-game set with the Rays, including a heartbreaking 7-3 setback in Wednesday's rubber match.
Holding a 2-1 lead in the ninth, Toronto opted against using closer Kevin Gregg, instead deciding to let Shaun Marcum (5-2) finish it out. The plan backfired, as the Rays erupted for six runs in the frame.
Lyle Overbay turned in a 3-for-4 effort with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run scored for the Blue Jays, who had won four in a row before the current slide. Jose Bautista and John Buck also knocked in a run each.
New York won 12 of its 18 matchups with the Jays last season and recorded a 6-3 mark north of the border.