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Yankees, Blue Jays Stumble Into 4-Game Showdown For First Place In AL East

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Yankees are sputtering heading into the biggest series of the season.

After squandering a few chances to perhaps take over the lead in the AL East, the Bombers welcome the first-place Blue Jays to the Bronx on Thursday for the opener of a four-game series.

The Yankees, who trail the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games, have been hard to figure of late. They followed up a 10-game homestand in which they went 5-5 by winning five of six on their recently completed road trip. However, they are only 3-3 on their current 10-game homestand, including a pair of uninspiring efforts to close out their series loss to the Orioles.

The Yankees managed just one run on Tuesday in a loss and then looked like Little Leaguers in the field during their 5-3 defeat on Wednesday.

The inconsistency of late has ruined golden opportunities to make a move in the division race, for Toronto, after being the hottest team in the league following the All-Star break, has come back to earth a bit of late, losing four of their last nine, including two of three in Boston earlier this week.

Part of the problem of late has been New York's gassed bullpen. Manager Joe Girardi chose to sit stellar relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in the final two games against Baltimore in the hope of having them fresh for Toronto.

The Yankees' rotation has contributed to the problem, with starters missing time all over the place and when healthy not pitching deep into games.

Red-hot Luis Severino (3-2. 2.04 ERA) will take the ball for the Yankees on Thursday. The prized rookie right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA over his last three starts. He likely will be followed by Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka against the Jays, all on four days' rest.

Blue Jays' starter David Price (14-5, 2.43) is 11-7 with a 4.21 ERA in 29 career appearances, including 28 starts, against the Yankees. Since coming over to Toronto from Detroit at the trade deadline, the veteran left-hander has faced New York twice, going 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA over 14 1/3 innings.

Catcher Brian McCann, who leads the Yankees with 86 RBIs, is a career .435 hitter (10-for-23) against Price, with three homers and seven RBIs.

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