The New York Yankees start a three-game series tonight in Toronto, Canada, against the Toronto Blue Jays. It may be the most critical series of the season because the outcome could decide the whole season for the boys from the Bronx. Right now, the Yankees hold onto the number one wild card berth that gives the home-field advantage in the one win or go home game.
The Yankees can’t control what happens to other teams, but they can control their own destiny. Presently the Red Sox are just one game back from the Yankees. The Yankees, to maintain that home-field advantage, must win two of three of these games because the Blue Jays are just one game behind the Red Sox. I stated that there are things they can not control; one of those is that the Red Sox play their next three games against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
The likelihood of the Sox winning two of three or even sweeping them is a real possibility. However, if the Yankees win two of three and the Sox sweep, both teams will be tied for home-field advantage. The problem is that the Sox already have the better season record against the Yankees and, therefore, will get the nod for that coveted home-field advantage.
For the Yankees to win this series, they will have to play their hearts out, playing their best baseball of the year, as they will face the Blue Jays three best pitchers, including their dual aces in Robbie Ray and Hyun Jin Ryu.
Tonight, September 28, 7:07 pm EDT
Tonight is the first game of a crucial three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The New York Yankees will send Jameson Taillon to the mound. The righty is 8-6 with an ERA of 4.41 and 136 strikeouts in 27 starts. The Yankees are not sure what they will get out of Taillon tonight as he hasn’t pitched in 22 days coming off an ankle injury. After not pitching for two years and two Tommy John surgeries, Taillon got off to a slow start this season but improved dramatically over the season, dropping his ERA from 6.23 to 4.41. From July 16 through August 26, the Yankees won all eight of his starts.
But pitching well against the energetic something to prove Blue Jays may be a challenge for Taillon. Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero, Randal Grichuk, and Marcus Semien have hit over .300 against him.
Taillon will face the Blue Jays ace, Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu is a lefty that is 13-9 with a 4.34 ERA and 133 strikeouts. Ryu has faced the Yankees four times this year, the Jays winning three of those games. He most recently faced the Yankees on September 6th; in that win, he allowed the Yankees only three hits in the 8-0 shutout. For Ryu to win tonight, he will have to get by Gary Sanchez, who has 3 home runs off of him in four games. Anthony Rizzo, in 8 at-bats, has a .500 average, including a home run. The big bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have not fared well against him.
Wednesday, September 29, 7:07 pm EDT
Wednesday night contest will feature the Yankee ace Gerrit Cole on the mound for game two. Cole is the winningest Yankee starter with a record of 16-8 and an ERA of 3.08, and an incredible 237 strikeouts. Of the 150 or so starting pitchers, Cole has the second-most wins. Cole missed two weeks of the season with a bout of the Covid virus, which and possibly tiring from the adjustment from a 60 game to 162 game season, seems to have affected Cole. The Yankees have won two and lost two of this last four starts. On September 1, Cole struck out a season-high 15 batters, but it has fallen off dramatically since then. The last time he faced the Blue Jays, he lasted only 3.1 innings striking out 2.
The New York Yankees will face Jose Berrios, a righty that is 12-9 with an ERA of 3.48 and 197 strikeouts. The Yankees have only faced Berrios once this season; the bad news is that they lost that game when he pitched into the seventh inning with 109 pitches and only allowing five Yankees hits. Berrios has a lower ERA in September than Cole, by a full point. For the Yankees to win this game, Cole will have pitch better than Berrios, and Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Brett Gardner all have hit well off Berrios and will have to pummel him.
Thursday, September 30, 7:07 pm EDT
The Yankees will send Corey Kluber to the mound in the set’s final game to face the Blue Jays best pitcher, ace Robbie Ray. Kluber is still in comeback mode from a shoulder issue that kept him out three months of the season. He is a righty that is 5-3 with a 3.82 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 15 starts. Kluber started the season slowly with the Yankees but gradually got better to the point of having a no-hitter on May 19th against the Rangers for the only Yankee no-hitter since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999. Since coming back from his injury, the Yankees have won all three of his last starts.
Robbie Ray is in contention and a near-lock for the CY Young award this year. The lefty is 13-6 with a 2.68 ERA and a baseball-leading 244 strikeouts. The Yankees have only faced Ray once this year. It was an April 12th meeting with Gerrit Cole on the mound. Kyle Higashioka powered the Yankees to a win with two home runs in that game. Ray has won three of his five starts during September. The Yankees will have to get out fast and often against Ray because only Higashioka and Gio Urshela have hit well off of him.