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Division battle on tap for Yanks

Division battle on tap as Yanks come home

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The Yankees have experienced their share of problems lately, from the rotation to the bullpen, to minor blips at the plate and in the field. It's a string that caused New York to lose its last five games and landed the 26-time World Series champions in last place in the American League East.

"We know we're better than we've been playing," manager Joe Torre said. "You just have to keep plugging. These are the times that are tough in baseball, when you start hitting the potholes and not succeeding. And that's when you really have to work at it."

At least one Yankee has been successful in his efforts lately. Alex Rodriguez has hit for a .385 average this year (30-for-78), and up until Tuesday night, had at least one hit in each of the 18 games played. The All-Star third baseman also has a Majors record-tying 14 home runs for the month of April and a career-high 34 RBIs in a month, one off the all-time high, set by Juan Gonzalez in 1998.

It's not a guaranteed win-generator, but A-Rod is happy to do what he can to help.

"This team has picked me up so many times over the last three years, it feels good to contribute and pick them up again," Rodriguez said. "I'm sure they'll pick me up in the future again.

"What you're doing is fun, but you really have to make sure you have the team concept tied into it, and get some wins. I am very proud of the way our team is battling through at-bats. ... Things will turn around for us."

Much of the difficulty has spawned from the starters' lack of presence in games. The Yankees' rotation has gone deeper than six innings just four times in 19 chances this season, placing undue pressure on the bullpen to perform night after night.

New York may see a bit of a reprieve when Andy Pettitte takes the mound at home against the Blue Jays in the series opener. The southpaw is responsible for two of the four six-plus-inning starts the Yankees have laid claim to this year, and he is expected to do the same in his fifth start, on Wednesday.

Pettitte limited the archrival Red Sox to just two runs in 6 1/3 innings in his last start, the third start from which he exited with a lead. Still, the left-hander has just one win under his belt, a six-inning shutout at Minnesota on April 10.

Pettitte is 15-7 in 29 career games (28 starts) against the Jays, and has worked to a 4.30 ERA.

Toronto will counter with A.J. Burnett, a right-hander who's struggled with his control lately, walking five in his most recent outing. Burnett's situation with the Jays is similar, as the team leans on him to go deep into his outings in order to give the bullpen a rest. He's responded fairly well through his four starts, except for a two-inning outing against Detroit to open the season.

Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.81 ERA in four lifetime starts against New York.

The Yankees are 228-182 all-time against Toronto. The teams have not yet met this season.

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP A.J. Burnett (1-1, 5.57 ERA)
Burnett is holding opponents to a .235 batting average.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (1-0, 1.78 ERA)
Pettitte has a 3.44 career ERA at home, compared with 4.15 on the road.

Player to watch
Rodriguez is 3-for-8 in his career against Burnett, with a double, two home runs and six RBIs.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS-AM 880 AM, WZAA-FM 92.3 FM (Espan˜ol)

Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, Major League debut) vs. Blue Jays (Josh Towers, 1-2, 3.44), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2-2, 4.00), at Yankees (Jeff Karstens, 0-1, 14.54), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 2-2, 2.08), at Yankees (Kei Igawa, 1-1, 7.84), 3:55 p.m. ET

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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