After a nine game road trip that saw the Yankees go 5-4 while making two West Coast stop -- in Oakland and Seattle -- the Bombers are back in the comforts of their own home this week as they open up a three-game series with the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees are beginning a tough stretch of games against AL East opponents that will test their ability to stay in this division race as we move through the third month of the season.
Their next 15 games are against teams within the division, and six of their next 11 games are against these very same Blue Jays.
The Yankees and Blue Jays haven't seen each other since the first week of the season, when the Yankees took two of three games against the Jays up in Toronto. Since then, Toronto has played very well, taking a 4 1/2 game lead in the East while sporting one of the best records in baseball at 41-30.
Most of the Blue Jays' success this season has come from their bats, as they lead the American League in runs scored (334), and also lead all of Major League Baseball with 92 homerun. And what do you know, the team with the most homeruns in the majors opens up a series in Yankee Stadium tonight.
Tonight's lineup against Toronto:
LF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
1B Mark Teixeira
C Brian McCann
DH Carlos Beltran
RF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Brian Roberts
3B Kelly Johnson
* The Yankees have activated Francisco Cervelli off of the 60-day DL -- just as Joe Girardi hinted at over the weekend -- while John Ryan Murphy was optioned to Triple-A. Cervelli was out of options, so the only other thing that the Yankees could have done with him would be to release him, and that would have been questionable. So sending Murphy down it is, though it may not be the best move.
At the very least, he'll be able to go back to Scranton and play full-time, rather than sit on the bench behind McCann and not have many chances to improve.
* Yangervis Solarte is on the bench today, with Johnson getting the start at third. Solarte is in the mist of a pretty bad slump right now -- hitless in five straight games, and 18 straight at-bats -- and is hitting just .274 on the season, the lowest his batting average has been since he started the year 0-for-2 in his debut.
Pitching matchup preview:
It's another edition of Tanaka Tuesday, starting Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees' ace will be on the mound tonight as he faces the same team that he made his Major League debut against back on April 4, when he allowed three runs (two earned) in seven innings with eight strikeouts to earn his first career victory.
Tanaka has been, without a doubt, the Yankees' best pitcher this season, and easily one of the best pitchers in the majors.
Since suffering his only loss of the season against the Chicago Cubs on May 20, Tanaka has won four straight starts, including his last outing, against the Seattle Mariners last week when he picked up his 10th MLB-best 10th win of the season with a complete-game, striking out out 11 while giving up just two runs.
The Yankees will be going up against 23-year-old Marcus Stroman, a New York native that has is 3-1 this season with quality starts of at least six inning in all three of his outings as a starter this season. He took home his first big league loss in his last outing, giving up three runs on nine hits in six innings against the Minnesota Twins.