If you're the Yankees, you don't ever want to see Jose Bautista -- but especially not right now.
Bautista has hit more home runs against New York than any other player in the Majors since 2010 -- 20 in 57 games. But he's also homered in four consecutive games and will look to extend his run to five straight on Sunday afternoon against right-hander Brandon McCarthy.
McCarthy, who has faced Bautista only once in his career, will not only try to keep the Toronto slugger in the ballpark; he'll try to keep the Yankees on pace in the American League Wild Card race. New York has won seven of its last 10 games despite collecting just one hit in Saturday's 2-0 loss. The Yankees are 3 1/2 games behind both the Tigers and Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot, as Detroit and Kansas City are tied for the Centreal lead.
McCarthy struggled in his last outing, taking the loss against the Tigers on Tuesday after allowing five runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. But prior to that, the right-hander had posted a 1.90 ERA (11 earned runs in 52 innings) since joining the Yankees in a trade with the D-backs on July 6.
"I've thrown well enough to get through outings where I haven't been as sharp, and today, that's the disappointment," McCarthy said after his outing against Detroit. "I'd like to be able to fight back. You know days like this you're going to give up some runs, especially against a good team like that. You'd like to be able to limit it a little bit more."
In seven career appearances (four starts) against the Blue Jays, McCarthy is 1-2 with a 4.28 ERA. But he's pitched well in daytime affairs this season, going into Sunday's rubber match with a 1.88 ERA in seven starts under the sun, as opposed to a 5.03 ERA in 20 starts at night.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are fighting just to stay in the playoff hunt, having endured a losing August for a fourth consecutive season. Toronto is 8-17 this month after beginning the second half of the season 11-3. On Aug. 1, Toronto was 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore in the AL East. After Saturday's win, the Blue Jays were 10 games behind the Orioles and 5 1/2 back in the AL Wild Card chase.
Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the ball for Toronto, looking for his first win since July 22 against the Red Sox. He's struggled over his past three starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings (6.46 ERA). But he has also gotten little run support since the All-Star break, with the Blue Jays scoring three runs or fewer in five of his eight second-half starts.
"It's definitely tough to take," Happ said after he took a no-decision in his last start, allowing three runs on five hits with eight strikeouts in six innings against Boston. "I felt better than that. They put some good swings on a couple of balls, but other than that, I felt like I was executing pretty well."
Yankees: Ellsbury won't be rushed
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury injured his left ankle while sliding into home plate during Friday's 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. He did not play on Saturday.
"His ankle is sore," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can call it an ankle sprain; you can call it whatever you want."
The Yankees are being cautious with Ellsbury, who has homered in three of his last five games and is batting .455 (20-for-44) with a double, a triple, four home runs, 11 RBIs and six stolen bases since Aug. 19. With an off-day for New York on Monday, Ellsbury may get some extra time to recover before the Yankees begin a home series against the Red Sox on Tuesday.
"I think [we'll] see if he can be a player before [Tuesday]," Girardi said. "He wants to play. You just have to see what he's capable of doing."
Blue Jays: Can't wait for a new month
Toronto's offense has struggled mightily in August, going into the final day of the month batting .239 with 15 home runs and 80 RBIs. By start contrast, in July, the Blue Jays batted a red-hot .281 with 26 homers and 115 RBIs.
One bright spot, however, has been Bautista's improved performance at the plate recently. He broke an 0-for-17 slump with a homer on Tuesday, and since then, he's gone 4-for-11 with three home runs and four RBIs.
• Three Yankees veterans have had success against Happ in their careers. Derek Jeter is 7-for-14 with two home runs and three RBIs against the southpaw. Carlos Beltran is 7-for-21 (.333) with a double, three homers and six RBIs. Ichiro Suzuki is 4-for-7 (.571) with two doubles.
• Melky Cabrera is 4-for-9 (.444) with a double, two home runs and four RBIs in his career against McCarthy.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.