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Yankees Open Series with Blue Jays This Afternoon

(Sports Network) - The New York Yankees were able to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners with yesterday's win. They had to do the exact same thing the last time the Toronto Blue Jays were on the schedule.

The defending World Series champions will square off with the AL East-rival Blue Jays this afternoon in the opener of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. New York, which is coming off Thursday's 4-2 victory versus Seattle, salvaged the finale of a three-game series in Toronto back on June 6.

Toronto has won four of the past six matchups with the division-leading Yankees, winners in seven of their last 11 contests. CC Sabathia was able to pull his team to victory by winning his sixth straight start, allowing just two runs -- one earned -- and five hits through eight innings. Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth for his 18th save.

Slugging third baseman Alex Rodriguez belted a two-run homer off Mariners reliever David Aardsma to snap a tie in the eighth inning and now has 595 for his career. He will eventually be the seventh member of the 600-homer club, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa. Robinson Cano, who is batting an MLB-best .353, homered and Mark Teixeira collected two hits and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to 12 games for New York, which is 1 1/2 games ahead of Boston in the AL East and two games in front of Tampa Bay.

"First of all, we ran into a wave of great pitching here on the last two nights," Rodriguez said. "It was a fastball, a fastball up. The first pitch I swung at was a little late, then I made an adjustment."

Speaking of adjustments, the Yankees hope that right-hander A.J. Burnett can snap out of his current funk when he takes the hill Friday. Burnett opened the 2010 season 6-2 with a 3.28 earned run average in his first 11 starts, but has faltered since. He has lost his last five starts to go along with an 11.35 earned run average and will try for his first win since May 30.

Burnett has allowed six or more runs in four of his previous five outings and is coming off a horrendous road performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Saturday. He went a season-low three innings and gave up six runs on six hits and six walks in the 9-4 setback. He hopes to rebound tonight at Yankee Stadium, where he is 3-2 in six starts.

The righty will face his former team, the Blue Jays, for the sixth time in his career and is 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA in five career starts against them. Burnett was roughed up by Toronto on June 4 this season in a 6-1 loss, as he permitted six runs and six hits in six frames.

Toronto has lost five in a row and was just swept in four games at Cleveland. The Indians completed the sweep with Thursday's 6-1 triumph, while Jays starter Shaun Marcum suffered the loss for allowing six runs -- five earned -- on five hits and three walks in four innings.

"Walks obviously kill you and it kills you even more when you don't locate a pitch and they hit it for a three-run homer," said Marcum. "That's something I've been struggling with for the last few starts, walking people, and it's something I obviously have to get better at."

Aaron Hill had two hits and drove in the only run for the Blue Jays. They are 1-6 on a 10-game road trip.

Toronto starter Brett Cecil hopes to break out of his slump when he takes the Yankee Stadium mound Friday. Cecil had won five straight starts before losing his last three trips to the hill to go along with a 9.19 earned run average.

Cecil was pounded by Philadelphia the previous time out in Sunday's 11-2 loss, as he permitted seven runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. The left-hander, who has surrendered at least five runs in three straight appearances, is 5-2 in seven road starts this season. Cecil is also 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees and beat them on June 4 this season with eight innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 victory.