Yankees have big stretch ahead: 15 games vs. AL East, beginning with first-place Blue Jays

Yankees manager Joe Girardi on as his team Yankees manager Joe Girardi on as his team takes batting practice prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 6, 2014 in Kansas City. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ed Zurga

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It is a chance, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, to "do positive damage.''

After spending much of the last month-plus playing a slew of clubs from the AL West, AL Central and National League, the Yankees face a stretch of 15 straight against AL East foes.

It starts Tuesday night at the Stadium with the first-place Blue Jays (41-30), who lead the Yankees (35-33) by 4½ games. The Yankees play six of their next nine games against the Jays, including three in Toronto next week. In between, they have a three-game series against the Orioles (35-34) at the Stadium.

While acknowledging the opportunity, Cashman has been around long enough to know the folly of focusing on, and putting too much stock in, any short stretch of a 162-game season.

"We want to do positive damage over the next 15 days, but if we don't, we're going to have to make it up over the 15 after that,'' Cashman said, speaking Monday at a Yankees HOPE Week event at the Intrepid. "Really, we just count every day the same way. They're all important. We're not into trying to give anything away. What we're looking for [is if] our guys are competing. Just some days we play better than others right now. We've been inconsistent.''

The club's just-concluded three-city trip is the most recent example of that.

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The Yankees were offensively inept in losing two of three in Kansas City, then recovered to sweep the Mariners, who had been playing well. The Yankees made it four straight by beating the powerful A's, 7-0, Friday night before a pair of ugly losses Saturday and Sunday completed a 5-4 trip.

"You don't want to make too much of it, but it's obviously an important period when you're going to see the teams that we're going to see,'' Joe Girardi said of the upcoming schedule. "Just a huge stretch against East Coast teams, and you have a chance to make up ground and put distance between other teams and yourself. So I think it's really important.''

Girardi said the A's "flexed their muscle'' in a 10-5 rout Sunday, and the Yankees will see a similar physique with the Blue Jays. Toronto entered Monday night ranked first in the AL in home runs (92), hits (632), extra-base hits (230), slugging percentage (.436) and OPS (.765) and was second in runs (334), RBIs (318) and on-base percentage (.330).

Edwin Encarnacion has 20 homers and 54 RBIs. Jose Bautista has 15 homers, 47 RBIs, a .314 batting average and a .981 OPS, which ranked third in the league.

Unlike previous years -- including last year, when they went 74-88 -- the Blue Jays have held their own on the mound. They had a staff ERA of 3.93, sixth in the AL.

"They've swung the bats extremely well, they've played good defense and they've pitched well,'' Girardi said. "You knew how dangerous they were offensively. They went through some injuries last year just like everybody else, and sometimes it's hard to overcome those. We knew that they were very talented.''

Said Mark Teixeira, "We have to play well against our division. You can't afford to have a losing streak against guys that you're chasing. These are all going to be big games.''

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