Meanwhile, the Yankees are coming off a two-game series split with another AL East upstart -- the Orioles -- and trying to rebound from a night in which their ace took his first loss of the season. With the back end of their bullpen chewed up by injuries -- including Tuesday's announcement that David Robertson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique -- the Yankees will lean on their starting rotation more than at any point this season.
Wednesday's starter, Hiroki Kuroda, and the other members of the Yankees' rotation will be feeling pressure to pitch deep, given the shakeup of the club's late-inning relievers. For manager Joe Girardi's club, that means Kuroda will try to repeat his performance from his last outing, on Friday, when the righty earned his third win of the year by holding the Mariners to two earned runs on six hits over seven innings.
"It's what I've been doing all my life," Kuroda said. "I really hope that I can be real consistent, and it looks like it's beginning to be like that, so I'm happy about that."
The Blue Jays would also like to see length from Kuroda's opponent, Kyle Drabek. The right-hander has not reached the sixth inning in either of his last two starts, and he comes off a 4 1/3-innings performance in a loss to the Twins. Drabek is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA so far in May after going 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA in April. His recent struggles are consistent with how a handful of Toronto pitchers have approached opposing hitters recently, according to manager John Farrell.
"Yes, we've issued a high number of walks; the numbers clearly state that," Farrell said. "We've also managed the lineup in a way that has had an effect on that, where if we've got a certain matchup on the mound and a right-left situation, we're not going to give in to a left-hander for a right-hander to be able to attack the following right-handed hitter. That was the case over in Minnesota on a couple of occasions, but at the same time, it's important for all of our pitchers to take control of the count."
In four career outings (three starts) against the Yankees, Drabek is 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA, 13 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Yankees: Robertson on the shelf
Robertson, who was held out of game action on Monday, will not pick up a baseball for seven to 10 days, according to Girardi. In Robertson's absence, Rafael Soriano will take over the closer role.
"I have confidence that he can do it; I do," Girardi said of Soriano at the end of Spring Training. "I don't doubt that he can do the job, because I've seen him do it before. I think he likes the ninth inning. Certain pitchers like the ninth inning."
Right-hander Cody Eppley was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill Robertson's roster spot.
Alex Rodriguez has begun to hit with more authority following a slow start to the season. Though he has hit just one home run and driven in three runs in May, Rodriguez is hitting .352 (18-for-51) in the month after batting .244 in April. The Yankees are waiting for a power surge from the third baseman, however. He has just two extra-base hits in 14 games this month.
Blue Jays: Escobar back in rhythm
Yunel Escobar's season turned when the calendar flipped to May. In 13 games since May 1, Escobar is hitting .294 (15-for-51) with six RBIs, two doubles, one triple and five walks. He has struck out just four times this month. The shortstop has reached base safely in 14 of his past 18 games, dating to April 26.
On Tuesday, in his 139th at-bat of the season, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 12th home run. The slugger hit 17 home runs in 481 at-bats last year.
The Yankees are 19-4 this season when scoring at least four runs and 1-12 when scoring three or fewer.