Slow start dooms Yanks

Slow start dooms Yanks

TORONTO -- Poor starting pitching, inconsistent offense and shaky defense isn't exactly a formula for success, so it's no wonder that the Yankees had a tough time against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday night.

Jaret Wright was roughed up for five runs in 2 2/3 innings, New York managed just two singles after the third inning and Alex Rodriguez made yet another error, as Toronto cruised to a 7-3 victory.

The loss was the third in a row for the Yankees, who suddenly find themselves trying to hold off the surging Blue Jays for second place in the American League East.

"If we expect to win ballgames, we're going to have to pitch, keep ourselves in the game and limit the opposition to three outs," Joe Torre said. "This wasn't a good game for us."

"We all knew that the Blue Jays are a handful," Rodriguez said. "With these two horses they've thrown at us the last two days in [Roy] "Doc" Halladay and A.J. [Burnett], they're a handful. It's basically a three-team race."

Burnett allowed three runs over 7 1/3 innings, retiring 15 of the final 17 batters he faced to earn his second win of the season.

"He's got that big curveball and his fastball runs in and cuts away," Derek Jeter said. "He's overpowering, and when he controls his curveball, he's pretty tough. He threw a lot of them for strikes."

Burnett's lone mistake of the night came against Rodriguez, who collected both his 2,000th hit and 450th home run with one swing in the third inning.

"[To get] 450 and 2,000 at the same time, that's unique," Rodriguez said. "Unfortunately I couldn't do it in a win, but I'm still going to enjoy it."

The Blue Jays opened the game with an assault on Wright, as the first five hitters reached base safely. Reed Johnson doubled, Frank Catalanotto singled and Vernon Wells walked, loading the bases with no outs.

Troy Glaus singled in two runs, while Lyle Overbay doubled in two more, giving Toronto a 4-0 lead before Wright knew what hit him. He retired the next three batters, but the damage had been done.

"For some reason, warming up, I was really amped up and into it," said Wright, who carried that energy with him to the mound. "Sometimes, that can be a big deterrent when you're out there. I should have backed off a little more, tried to hit more spots and keep the ball down. I was trying to overthrow."

Burnett, on the other hand, worked through the first two frames with relative ease. He ran into some trouble in the third, as A-Rod blasted a three-run homer to left field, cutting the Jays' lead to one run.

"The A-Rod home run, I think I missed my spot," Burnett said. "I tried to go in-off and got more of the plate, and, you know, that's what he's supposed to do with it."

Rodriguez became the youngest player in baseball history to reach the 450-homer mark, and just the eighth to get 2,000 hits before his 31st birthday, joining Ty Cobb (29), Rogers Hornsby (29), Mel Ott (30), Hank Aaron (30), Joe Medwick (30), Jimmie Foxx (30) and Robin Yount (30).

"I'm sure he's very proud of that," Torre said. "But I'm also sure that he'd rather do something on an everyday basis."

Wright was yanked from the game in the bottom of the third after giving one of the runs back following a leadoff walk.

"It's terrible to do that," Wright said. "We put up three off a guy who seemed to be on, so to come out there, that's the inning you have to shut them down and get back in the dugout. Walking the leadoff guy is something you can't do."

"Alex picked us up with that home run, but we gave a run right back," Torre said. "Every time it looked like [Wright] was going to straighten it out, he couldn't get over the hump. The one thing we know about Jaret is that he's going to go out there and give you everything he's got. Tonight, his command just wasn't there."

Shawn Chacon came in and escaped the bases-loaded jam, but he issued a leadoff walk of his own in the fourth, as Toronto scored again to take a 6-3 lead.

"You don't want to sit next to me when that happens," Torre said of the leadoff walks. "It's an uphill battle. It makes it very difficult; the more people you put on base, the more selective hitters can be."

In that fourth inning, Rodriguez lost a popup in the sky in foul territory, as it dropped to the turf, prolonging Wells' at-bat. No error was charged to Rodriguez, but during the same at-bat, Wells grounded a ball to third, where A-Rod fielded it and made a bad throw to first, committing his 18th error of the season and fifth in five days.

"It's just like hitting; you go through little slumps," Rodriguez said. "I'll keep working at it. You go 0-for-10 sometimes, and you can go through a little fielding slump."

The three-run cushion was plenty for Burnett, who retired 14 of the next 15 batters after Rodriguez's home run. Jeter singled with one out in the eighth, ending Burnett's night, but Scott Schoeneweis retired the final five batters to close out the win.

"We got his pitch count up, but we didn't really put any pressure on him," Torre said of Burnett, who threw 121 pitches in the win. "He's got knockout stuff. When we closed the gap, I thought we could put a little pressure on him, but we couldn't mount anything."

The Blue Jays are now just two games behind the Yankees for second place in the AL East, with two more games to go against each other this weekend.

"We need all of our guys to pitch in, and unfortunately, we're just sporadically doing it," Johnny Damon said. "We'll find it, but any time you lose three games in a row, you're going to take a deep look at what's going on."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.