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Another big series for the Yankees this week. Fresh off sweeping the Orioles, who were close in the Yankees’ rear view mirror, the Yanks now take on a team they’re chasing: the Blue Jays. These two teams squared off just last week in a similar situation standings-wise.

Their Story So Far

I more or less covered where Toronto’s at in last week’s series preview, so this’ll serve as an update regarding what’s happened since. After the Jays took two of three from the Yanks, they hosted the Mets for three games in Buffalo.

The Yanks’ crosstown rivals embarrassed the Jays in the first game, winning 18-1. But Toronto rebounded to win the final two games of the series, which brought their record to 26-20, a half game ahead of the Yankees (26-21) for second place in the AL East. Also: Toronto trails the division leading Rays by 3.5 games.

Toronto also got healthier during that Mets series. The team activated closer Ken Giles and shortstop Bo Bichette from the injured list just in time for the final stretch. The Yankees were fortunate to not face either of those two last week, but won’t be so lucky this time around. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind Gary Sánchez welcoming Giles back in a redux of this:

The Jays are still missing a few key players, but there’s no question they’re stronger for this series vs. New York. Of course, the Yanks seem to be getting stronger too. The winner of this series will exit it in possession of second place, though these two sides will play again next week in Buffalo.

Injury Report

  • Teoscar Hernández, OF (oblique strain)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (flexor strain)
  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH (strained knee)
  • Héctor Pérez, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (lat strain)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (finger discomfort)
  • Wilmer Font, RHP (shin contusion)
  • Yennsy Díaz, RHP (lat strain)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery to remove loose bodies)

Spotlight: Rafael Dolis

The Blue Jays were very active in the 2019-20 offseason, so it’s easy for someone like Rafael Dolis to get lost amid some of the Toronto’s other big signings, notably Hyun-Jin Ryu. And not only was Dolis somewhat of an afterthought in free agency, but he was also the second-most notable signee out of the NPB for the Jays. Versatile righty Shun Yamaguchi was the bigger name. But as it turns out, Dolis has been the team’s second-best acquisition in free agency, behind Ryu.

Before joining Toronto, Dolis dominated in relief for the Hanshin Tigers from 2016 through 2019. He notched 96 saves and recorded a 2.49 ERA while with Hanshin. This run came after Dolis struggled to break through in the US. He had reached the majors with the Cubs in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but scuffled. The Giants and Tigers took chances on Dolis in the two years after, but the right could never escape Triple-A.

Now 32 years-old, Dolis has emerged as one of Toronto’s vital bullpen pieces, particularly while Giles was out. He’s got a 1.61 ERA in 22 games and has struck out just over 29 percent of opponents. The underlying metrics also look terrific:

Dolis.

The big flaw in Dolis’s game is control: he’s got a walk rate north of 15 percent, though that’s yet to really bite him. Hey, if you limit hard contact and strike out a ton of batters, walks won’t really hurt too much.

We got a look at Dolis last week, who picked up a save against the Yankees. He struck out two in an uneventful 1-2-3 ninth. Even though Giles is healthy, it looks like Dolis will remain as the closer for the time being. He also nabbed a save against the Mets.

So far, so good for Dolis with Toronto. The stuff is legit and the results have followed. Quite the steal for the Jays especially considering his mere $1 million 2020 base salary and $1.25 million club option for 2021.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, RF (.253/.372/.431, 124 wRC+)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.333/.361/.609, 157 wRC+)
  3. Travis Shaw, 3B (.248/.315/.403, 95 wRC+)
  4. Randal Grichuk, CF (.273/.316/.485, 113 wRC+)
  5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.241/.321/.412, 99 wRC+)
  6. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.285/.339/.481, 121 wRC+)
  7. Jonathan Villar, DH (.248/.316/.312, 75 wRC+)
  8. Joe Panik, 2B (.261/.356/.318, 94 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.151/.292/.301, 69 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alejandro Kirk, C (153 wRC+ in 4 PA)
  • Santiago Espinal, INF (61 wRC+ in 62 PA)
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (179 wRC+ in 9 PA)
  • Derek Fisher, OF (147 wRC+ in 35 PA)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Taijuan Walker (vs. Yankees)

Walker didn’t give up a run against the Yanks last week, but he wasn’t exactly sharp. In 4 innings, the recent acquisition surrendered 7 baserunners. That was right in the midst of the Yankees’ funk, so the #RISPfail doesn’t come as a surprise. Maybe a second look will do the Bombers better.

Deivi García (vs. Blue Jays)

This will be the first time we witness Deivi facing a team for the second time. Not only is Toronto going to get another look at the Yankees’ 21 year-old righty, but it comes within just a week of the previous matchup. García gave up just 2 runs in 7 innings against the Jays in Buffalo on the 9th.

Walker.

Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Tanner Roark (vs. Yankees)

Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu took Roark deep last week, but those solo homers were all the Yanks could muster against him. It hasn’t been a good season for Roark (5.60 ERA), who the Jays signed to a two-year, $24 million contract in the offseason.

Gerrit Cole (vs. Blue Jays)

Cole was masterful against the Orioles on Friday in a complete game shutout. More of that, please. This is the first time he faces Toronto as a member of the Yankees.

Roark.

Thursday, 7:05 p.m. EDT:

Chase Anderson (vs. Yankees)

Like Roark, Anderson hasn’t fared so well after his free agent signing with the Jays. He’s got a 5.81 ERA in 7 starts and has only completed 5 innings twice. He’s never faced the Yankees, though he has opposed Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu in the National League.

Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Jays)

The Yankees have been able to count on Tanaka time and time this year. He’s really had just one bad start (against the Rays, unfortunately). Otherwise, he’s been quite good as his 3.16 ERA reflects.

Anderson.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Julian Merryweather, Ken Giles, AJ Cole, Shun Yamaguchi, Thomas Hatch, Ross Stripling

LHP: Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay

Like the Yanks, Toronto was off yesterday so the bullpen is pretty fresh entering this series. If anyone’s tired, it could be Dolis, who threw back-to-back games to finish the series against the Mets. Otherwise, no one has thrown on consecutive games recently.


I feel like I’m always saying that “the Yankees should sweep this team”, but yeah, I’m gonna say it again here. The Bombers confidence is back, the reinforcements are coming, and the pitching matchup favors the Yankees in all three games of this series. Win them all and put Toronto in third place for good.