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Last call for the Blue Jays. Wasn’t it just a week ago that these two sides were duking it out for second place in the AL East? Now, Toronto sits in the 8th seed at 27-26 whereas the Yankees are four games ahead of them at 31-22. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but barring a Blue Jays four game sweep, this series isn’t going to change the outcome of the AL East race.

Since we last saw them

Hasn’t been all that long since the Yankees and Blue Jays previously squared off. This will be the third consecutive week that these two sides have a series against one another. Most recently, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in three games at Yankee Stadium. This wasn’t any ordinary sweep, by the way. The Yanks outscored Toronto 43-15.

Things haven’t gone much better for the Jays since they departed the Bronx. Toronto lost three of four down in Philadelphia, though it could have been worse. Philly tacked on 15 runs in Friday’s doubleheader to open the series. This, after the Yankees’ 43 run shellacking of the Jays’ pitching staff. Then, Toronto finally got a well-pitched game from Hyun-Jin Ryu, but still lost. Vince Velazquez outpitched Ryu to beat the Jays, 3-1. At long last, Toronto returned to the win column yesterday to salvage the series and break a six game losing streak.

Injury Report

  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B (strained knee)
  • Derek Fisher, OF (knee contusion)
  • Yennsy Diaz, RHP (strained lat)
  • Elvis Luciano, RHP (undisclosed)
  • Nate Pearson, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Matt Shoemaker, RHP (strained lat)
  • Trent Thornton, RHP (elbow surgery)
  • Ken Giles, RHP (strained flexor)
  • Jordan Romano, RHP (strained middle finger)
  • Jacob Waguespack, RHP (strained back)

Spotlight: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

There are a lot of exciting young players on the Blue Jays. Whether its Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, or Cavan Biggio, one guy seems to get a little less notice: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. But like the first three, he’s got baseball in his lineage as older brother Yuli plays for the Astros.

The almost 27 year-old outfielder has been a strong contributor in Toronto since he debuted in 2018. Gurriel came up as a shortstop, but was moved to left field last year in favor of Freddy Galvis (though really in preparation for Bo Bichette’s call-up). Regardless of where he’s played, his bat has been superb.

Gurriel has a lifetime .285/.327/.507 (121 wRC+) in 807 plate appearances. He’s got plenty of power (41 homers, .222 ISO) and has a more than tolerable strikeout rate (22.9 percent) considering his power production. 2020 has been his best offensive season: .303/.348/.530 (137 wRC+), 10 homers, and a 19.9 percent strikeout rate in 201 trips to the plate. He’s also boosted his walk rate to 7.0 percent, comfortably above the 4.8 percent walk rate he had from 2018 through 2019.

If it’s not clear based on more than 800 big league plate appearances, Gurriel’s Statcast data also backs up his offensive results.

Plenty of hard contact leading to good results. And a lot of those hard hits have come against the Yankees this year, by the way. Gurriel enters this series with a .550/.550/1.100 batting line in 20 plate appearances against the Yankees this season. He also has three homers, two coming against Masahiro Tanaka.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, RF (.247/.371/.409, 121 wRC+)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS (.306/.327/.551, 133 wRC+)
  3. Teoscar Hernández, DH (.307/.356/.639, 165 wRC+)
  4. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF (.303/.348/.530, 137 wRC+)
  5. Randal Grichuk, CF (.258/.296/.447, 98 wRC+)
  6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.237/.312/.407, 96 wRC+)
  7. Travis Shaw, 3B (.233/.307/.397, 93 wRC+)
  8. Joe Panik, 2B (.248/.363/.333, 101 wRC+)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.160/.297/.292, 69 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alenjandro Kirk, C (200/.273/.200, 37 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Villar, INF/OF (.241/.310/.307, 73 wRC+)
  • Jonathan Davis, OF (.333/.500/.750, 233 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

TBD

The Yankees pushed back Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka in preparation for the postseason rotation, which opens up today’s slot. Michael King seems like a possibility to start tonight, though nothing has been announced.

RHP Matt Shoemaker

This will be Shoemaker’s first start in a month. He’s been on the injured list with a lat strain. In 25 2/3 innings pre-injury, the righty had a 4.91 ERA and 6.10 FIP. Tonight will be his first start against the Yankees as a Blue Jay.

Shoemaker.
Tomorrow, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Gerrit Cole

The Yankees’ ace in on a roll of late. He faced this same Jays squad last week and allowed just one run in seven innings. Expect Kyle Higashioka to catch Cole again.

RHP Tanner Roark

Roark has been dreadful this season (6.41 ERA, 7.71 FIP in 39 1/3 innings). The Yankees shelled the veteran last time out and surely are salivating to face him again.

Roark.
Wednesday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka had his longest outing of the season — 7 innings — against Toronto on the 17th. He’s been good all season (3.27 ERA, 4.25 FIP) and is getting ready for a Game 2 start in the Wild Card round.

RHP Chase Anderson

Like Roark, the Yankees crushed Anderson last week. Anderson’s had a brutal season (7.45 ERA, 7/15 FIP in 29 innings) and this Yankees’ lineup is not a good matchup for him.

Anderson.
Thursday, 6:37 p.m. EDT:

LHP JA Happ

The previously written-off 37 year-old lefty now has a 3.25 ERA after throwing eight scoreless innings against Boston on Saturday. His turnaround after two dreadful starts to open up the 2020 campaign has been remarkable.

LHP Robbie Ray

Toronto acquired Ray at the trade deadline, but he hasn’t been all that great. Better than Arizona (7.84 ERA and 7.28 FIP), but that’s a low bar to clear. In 16 2/3 innings with the Jays, Ray has a 5.94 ERA and 5.70 FIP.

Ray.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Rafael Dolis, Anthony Bass, Julian Merryweather, A.J. Cole, Thomas Hatch, Patrick Murphy, Shun Yamaguchi, Wilmer Font, Ross Stripling, T.J. Zeuch

LHP: Ryan Borucki

Bass (14 pitches), Hatch (27), and Yamaguchi (21) pitched yesterday. Everyone else has had a day of rest, although Borucki and Cole pitched back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.