With just 29 games remaining in the 2014 season, the Toronto Blue Jays are in as precarious a position as team can be in. Technically, they are still in the hunt, but at 9.5 games back in the American League East and 5.5 games behind in the Wild Card (with 4 teams to jump), the Blue Jays have a tough hill to climb.
That climb needs to start this weekend, with a big series against one of those teams, the New York Yankees.
The Yankees currently lead the season series with 7 wins in 12 contests, but the Blue Jays have taken the last two sets against New York. However, the two teams enter the series heading in different directions, with the Yankees clicking on all cylinders and the Blue Jays struggling to get anything to go right. That leaves this series up in the wind for whichever team decides to show up.
Let’s take a look at the match-ups.
At initial glance, this match-up would appear to favor the Blue Jays, but there are more to match-ups than shear season statistics.
Mark Buehrle’s struggles against the Yankees are pretty well documented, but we’ll review them again. In 19 career starts against New York, the lefty is 1-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. Yankees hitters own a .316/.353/.506 slash-line against Buehrle, tagging him for 20 home runs in those 19 games.
On the other side is Chris Capuano, who like Buehrle isn’t going to wow you with his stuff. However, he’s provided what the Yankees have wanted since they picked him up; an innings eater. Capuano has only 6 career appearances against Toronto in his career, posting a 4.34 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. 4 (1 start)of those appearances came in 2014, with the lefty holding the Jays in check to the tune of a 2.89 ERA, but he’s walked 7 and hit a batter in 9.1 innings of work.
Blue Jays fans are hoping to again see the Drew Hutchison that tossed 6.2 innings of 5-hit, 2-run baseball on July 26th against the Yankees in New York. That Hutchison was the guy we love to see on the mound. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts against New York have been of the other variety, with the young righty holding a 1-3 record against the Bombers with a 7.08 ERA and .885 OPS against in 4 starts.
Hutch will be opposed by Michael Pineda, who held the Blue Jays in check on April 5th, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and 5 strike-outs. That was before the injuries and the issues with pine tar surfaced. However, Pineda has been solid since coming back from the DL on August 13th, allowing just 4 earned runs in 17.1 innings of work with a 12:1 K/BB ratio.
Brandon McCarthy was one of the arms the Blue Jays were purportedly kicking the tires on at the trade deadline before he was eventually dealt to the Yankees. He’s been somewhat of a godsend for New York, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.47 ERA and a solid 1.64 GO/AO ratio.
McCarthy will face off against J.A. Happ, who has had a very Happ-like season for the Blue Jays. After coming out of the gates following the All-Star Break with a 2.33 ERA and a 8.67 K/9 ratio in 5 starts after the midsummer classic, Happ has struggled in his last three outings, posting a 6.46 ERA and allowing 4 home runs in his last 15.1 innings of work. Like the rest of this weekend’s rotation, Happ has also struggled against New York, holding a 5.00 ERA in 8 career starts against the Yankees.
New York Yankees Line-up:
1.) Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
2.) Derek Jeter – SS
3.) Martin Prado – 2B
4.) Mark Teixeira – 1B
5.) Carlos Beltran – RF
6.) Brian McCann – DH
7.) Chase Headley – 3B
8.) Brett Gardner – LF
9.) Francisco Cervelli – C
Toronto Blue Jays Line-Up:
1.) Jose Reyes – SS
2.) Melky Cabrera – LF
3.) Jose Bautista – RF
4.) Adam Lind – 1B
5.) Edwin Encarnacion – DH
6.) Dioner Navarro – C
9.) Munenori Kawasaki/Steve Tolleson – 2B
Both teams are well armed with capable bats, and in a hitter-friendly environment like Rogers Centre, this series has the potential to explode into a slugfest. That said, the Blue Jays have struggled immensely on the offensive side of the ball, placing dead last in home runs during the month of August. If they want to survive a battle royale with the Yankees, the Jays are going to need a way to find the home run stroke once again.
Worth the price of admission:
One guy that has found his home run stroke of late has been Jose Bautista, who has homered in 3 of his last 7 games. However, no hitter in baseball seems to be more dialed in than Yankee center fielder, and Blue Jays killer, Jacoby Ellsbury.
Over his last 7 days, Ellsbury has hit .455/.435/.864 with 3 home runs, 7 RBI, and 3 stolen bases. Maybe this has something to do with going back into the leadoff spot, but a hot Ellsbury can only spell trouble in this series against Toronto.
Worth the price of a ride along with Josh Gordon:
On the opposite side of hot is the play of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees first baseman. The 34-year-old switch-hitter has quickly turned into one of the biggest albatross contracts in baseball. It’s hard to believe that he’s already played 6 seasons in New York, but that’s likely because they’ve been so forgettable. While the first few years of the marriage went well, the last three years have been a disaster, with Teixeira posting a .235/.328/.446 slash-line with a TOTAL of 47 home runs and 151 RBI over 237 games played.