The Blue Jays and Yankees square off in a crucial three-game series in Toronto beginning on Tuesday, and the starting pitching match-ups will be an important factor.
As things currently stand, the Blue Jays plan to begin the series with the return of Hyun Jin Ryu who is coming back from the 10 day IL due to neck stiffness. The 34 year old has struggled more recently, but hopefully the time off will have allowed him to right the ship, as he’s a very effective starter when he’s in his usual groove.
After Ryu the Blue Jays will turn to their top two starting options in Jose Berrios and Robbie Ray. Berrios had a couple of bumpy outings to start his Blue Jays tenure, but he’s been outstanding overall, especially lately. As for Ray, he’s probably the leading candidate for the AL Cy Young award at the moment, and a lockdown outing against the Yankees may just seal it for the 29 year old.
Other than not knowing what they might get from Ryu coming back from the IL, the Blue Jays are in a pretty strong position with their starters for the series. How about the Yankees?
They’ll start the three-game set with Canadian right-hander Jameson Taillon, who has been reasonably solid for the Yankees coming off of significant missed time in 2019 and 2020. For the season he holds an ERA of 4.41 to go with a 1.219 WHIP over 27 starts that have covered 138.2 innings. It hasn’t been outstanding, but he’s been a mostly reliable arm for a rotation that’s been in need of that sorta thing. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Taillon has been far more effective in the second half, so it’s hardly an easy match-up.
In game two the Blue Jays will have a chance to ruin Gerrit Cole’s chances of stealing the Cy Young award away from Robbie Ray. Cole has been once again performed as one of the top arms in the American League, and he’s pitched pretty well against the Blue Jays as well holding them to a slash line of .202/.250/.357 across four starts. That said, the Jays were getting to him in their last match-up when they had five hits and two walks over 3.2 innings before Cole was removed due to injury. Wednesday will be the fifth time they’ve seen him this year, and we all know how much the Blue Jays like to hit the fastball. I have a feeling this is the game that they really get to the former Astro.
Last but not least the Yankees have Corey Kluber listed as their probable starter for the third game of the series, another veteran with plenty of big game experience. As he has for the past few seasons, Kluber has once again battled injuries in 2021 and struggled to stay healthy. He’s been pretty solid when he has been on the mound though, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP over 15 starts covering 75.1 innings. He’s had some pretty mixed results since his latest return from the IL, and could be on a pretty short leash by the time we get to Thursday depending on how the first two games of the series go.
After the Yankees swept the Red Sox last week while the Blue Jays were splitting a four-game series with the Twins, the difference is 2.0 games between the two teams in the Wild Card standings, with the Red Sox smack down in the middle (1.0 game behind the Yankees, 1.0 ahead of the Jays). A Blue Jays’ sweep would put them one game ahead of the Yankees, and depending on how the Red Sox finish up the Jays might need to take three at home from New York. To wrap up the schedule the Blue Jays play three games vs. the Yankees and three with the Orioles, while the Yankees get the Jays and Rays, and the Red Sox play Baltimore and Washington.
For now the Blue Jays will have to focus on one series, and even one game at a time, and hopefully that includes getting to a trio of veteran Yankee starters.