This week features a battle of AL East teams as the New York Yankees (31-22) travel to Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY, to take on the Toronto Blue Jays (27-26) in a four-game series, which could have huge implications for the postseason.
The Yankees head into the week in second place, trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by 3.5 games. Given the expanded playoffs, which will feature the top two teams from each division moving on, the Yankees find themselves in a favorable spot to at least make the playoffs. They lead the third-place Blue Jays by four games.
Coming into this series, the Yankees are 9-1 in their last 10 games. In fact, before Sunday’s 10-2 loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees had won 10 in a row. With some of their superstars getting healthy again, this is a bad time to be matching up with New York.
The Blue Jays currently hold the second Wild-Card spot. Toronto is sitting in eighth in the American League as it sits 2.5 games behind the Indians for seventh. The Mariners are the closest team behind Toronto, but they sit a few games back.
Unlike the Yankees, Toronto has struggled lately, going 3-7 in its last 10. That span included being swept by New York in a three-game series. The Blue Jays are hoping for a different outcome this week.
As it currently stands, the Yankees have the second-best betting odds in MLB to win the World Series at +700. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, come in at +3300 to win it all. To win the American League, the Yankees are +370, while the Blue Jays are +1600.
By The Numbers
Offensively, the Yankees have been the better of the teams in terms of runs scored. They currently rank fourth, averaging 5.38 runs per game. Toronto comes in 13th, averaging 4.73.
Defensively, it is once again the Yankees who hold the advantage. They rank 11th, allowing opponents just 4.17 runs per game. The Blue Jays are 26th, allowing 5.31 runs per game.
Yankees Look To Keep Rolling
When you are 9-1 in your last 10 games, it is not surprising that you would have some red-hot hitters. In the last week, DJ LeMahieu has led the way, hitting .423/.516/1.038 with four home runs, 10 runs batted in and nine runs scored.
Luke Voit has also been producing, hitting .385/.429/1.000 with five home runs, 12 runs batted in and seven runs scored. Voit has had a remarkable year as he currently has 21 home runs, 49 runs batted in and 39 runs scored.
In terms of pitching, ace Gerrit Cole has given the Yankees the exact type of boost they were hoping for when they signed him to a massive deal in the offseason. He is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA, 0.98 WHIP. and has 87 strikeouts in 66 innings. He is expected to start the second game of the series on Tuesday.
Blue Jays Hope To Get Back On Track
It wasn’t too long ago that the Blue Jays were competing for the top spot in the division, but a rough couple weeks have reversed those thoughts. Now they are just trying to fight for playoff survival.
Part of the issue has been an unreliable starting rotation. Aside from Hyun Jin Ryu, injuries and inconsistency have to have the Blue Jays concerned.
Ryu has been solid, though, as he is 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and has struck out 68 in 60 innings. After pitching Saturday, Ryu will likely pitch in one of the latter games of this series.
Offensively, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez has probably been Toronto’s most consistent hitter. In 165 at-bats, Hernandez is hitting .303/.352/.636 with 16 home runs, 30 runs batted in and 30 runs scored.
Over the last week, it has been outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. leading the way. He is hitting .409/.409/.864 with three home runs, four runs batted in and six runs scored.
Hard To Bet Against The Yankees
Coming into this series, it is pretty hard to feel overly confident in the Blue Jays. The Yankees have been playing better in all aspects of the game and seem like a team hard to stop right now.
The Blue Jays certainly have something to play for given that continued woes could force them out of the postseason, but the Yankees aren’t in a position where they can comfortably coast either.
From both an individual game perspective and a series perspective, my money will be on New York unless something drastically changes.