Until Thursday, Yanks' focus on Jays

Until Thursday, Yanks' focus on Jays

TORONTO -- The temptation for the Yankees is to look beyond these two games in Canada, to the four upcoming games against you-know-who, with nothing less than first place on the line.

But the Blue Jays are dangerous on a normal day, and they're downright formidable on days when Roy Halladay pitches -- Tuesday being one of them. Toss in the fact that the Bronx Bombers are proceeding Wednesday with their most unstable starter, Sergio Mitre, against a pitcher they've never seen, and the Yankees know they're at risk of stumbling before the Red Sox even begin to set their sights on the Bronx.

"We know what we're facing today," manager Joe Girardi said, referring to Halladay in particular. "It's as tough as it gets."

To that end, Girardi made sure to insert Eric Hinske in right field on Tuesday, noting the veteran's .250 average in 24 career at-bats against Halladay.

"His numbers are OK against Roy," Girardi said. "And if your numbers are OK against Roy, you're doing all right."

Regular right fielder Nick Swisher, in contrast, is just 2-for-14 in his career against Halladay with seven strikeouts.

Such details, however, can seem insignificant in the context of this week as a whole, a week set to end with four games at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. The Yankees have not beaten their longtime rivals in eight games this season, which is hardly a secret. And so despite a flock of Canadian media requesting Girardi's take on Halladay -- and despite Girardi's own efforts to steer the conversation elsewhere -- talk of the Red Sox kept filtering into Rogers Centre on Tuesday afternoon.

Girardi deflected it as best he could, instead spreading his own message -- despite the temptation, despite the excitement, the Yankees simply cannot afford to look past the Jays.

"We have two important games here -- games within our division," Girardi said. "We have to take care of these two games before we worry about anything else."

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