The Yankees entered last weekend's series against the Red Sox trailing the Rays by just one game for the final American League Wild Card spot. After suffering a sweep at the hands of its rival, New York has fallen to three games back in the playoff race entering their off day Monday.
The Blue Jays are firmly out of the postseason picture, but the Yankees' three-game series in Toronto will still be a crucial one. They have only 12 games remaining, and each one will be critical to their chances of catching the Rays or Rangers and making the playoffs.
Toronto will look to play spoiler this week, and it will start the series with ace R.A. Dickey on the mound on Tuesday. Dickey has begun to look more like the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner since the start of August, going 4-1 with a 3.56 ERA after compiling a 4.66 ERA over the season's first four months.
Dickey has lost two of his three starts against the Yankees this season, but he has pitched better than his record indicates. The knuckleballer has allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 21 1/3 innings, giving him a 3.38 ERA against the AL East foe this year.
"It means something, but it's only a silver lining to a year that for the most part has been a struggle," Dickey said after his last start on Wednesday. "But there is some optimism in that."
The Yankees will counter Dickey with veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, who has notched quality starts in each of his last six outings. Pettitte has been stellar since getting shelled for seven runs in an abbreviated start against the White Sox on Aug. 5, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over his last seven games.
Pettitte has won all three of his starts against Toronto this year, posting a 1.77 ERA while limiting the Blue Jays to four runs on 14 hits over 20 1/3 innings.
"It's just battle; figure out a way," Pettitte said after his last start on Wednesday. "We've been doing it all year. We're going to continue to do it. We're going to continue to push through this and no matter how you lose a game here or there, it's not over until we're eliminated, as far as I'm concerned."
Yankees: A-Rod's status up in the air after early exit
The Yankees could be forced to open the series without Alex Rodriguez, who departed Sunday's series finale in Boston early with a new injury.
Already dealing with a tight left hamstring, Rodriguez left Sunday's game in the fifth inning due to tightness in his right calf. The Yankees were originally planning on putting Rodriguez back at third base on Tuesday after he spent the last five games as the club's designated hitter while nursing the hamstring injury, but that now seems unlikely.
Blue Jays: Rasmus streaking off the DL
Colby Rasmus has only been back with the Blue Jays since Friday, but he's already made an impression.
The outfielder, who had been on the disabled list since Aug. 12 with a strained left oblique, went 3-for-7 at the plate with two home runs and three RBIs in his first two games off the DL on Friday and Saturday.
Rasmus sat out Sunday's contest against the Orioles with general soreness, but he could be back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Yankees. The outfielder is batting .275 with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs this season, but he's just a .146 career hitter in 27 games vs. New York.
• Outfielder Alfonso Soriano returned to action on Sunday after missing Saturday's game with a sprained right thumb. Though he is not 100 percent, Soriano said it's the type of injury he needs to play through given the Yankees' current situation in regards to the postseason race.
"We're in the race and it's not time to take a day off," said Soriano, who added he was simply in too much pain to play effectively on Saturday. "I just want to do the best I can and help the team to win."
• Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis is hitting .550 (11-for-20) in his career against Pettitte.
• The Yankees are 13-3 against the Jays this season, marking the third straight year they have won the season series. Since 2001, Toronto has won the head-to-head matchup with New York just one time, going 10-8 against the Yanks in '10.
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.