If the Toronto Blue Jays played even .500 baseball the last few series, this week’s four-game series in the Bronx against the New York Yankees might have represented a chance to close in on first place in the American League East.
While the Blue Jays have scuffled recently, the Yankees have been even worse — at least until Wednesday when both teams recorded dramatic victories.
New York enters the series 10 games ahead of the Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East, meaning Toronto really needs a sweep to get within striking distance. A wild card remains a much more likely possibility.
Here’s a look at what should be a fun series.
Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (8-5, 5.61 ERA) vs. New York RHP Frankie Montas (4-9, 3.59 ERA)
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT (Apple TV+): Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (8-9, 3.16 ERA) vs. New York RHP Jameson Taillon (11-3, 3.95 ERA)
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET / 10:05 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Mitch White (1-3, 3.72 ERA) vs. New York RHP Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.30 ERA)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m. ET / 10:35 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto TBD vs. New York LHP Nestor Cortes (9-4, 2.74 ERA)
Latest on the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays (62-54) avoided a sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles with a 6-1 win at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon.
In his return from the injured list, Toronto starter Ross Stripling carried a perfect game into the seventh before giving up a leadoff single. He exited with the game tied at 0-0, but the Blue Jays offence finally stepped up with six runs in the bottom of the seventh to take charge.
George Springer’s pinch-hit RBI single opened the floodgates as the Blue Jays stayed in a playoff spot, one game ahead of the Minnesota Twins and 1.5 games in front of the Orioles.
Whether the exciting victory will be a turning point remains to be seen. The Blue Jays were 2-4 on the homestand.
Latest on the Yankees
The Yankees also were in danger of getting swept on Wednesday, but former Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson belted a walk-off grand slam in the 10th to give New York an improbable 8-7 win over the visiting Rays.
The Yankees, who rallied from a 4-0 deficit, had lost 12 of 15 before Donaldson’s heroics.
The eight-run outburst came after the Yankees had scored one run in their past three games.
The game didn’t end until midnight after a rain delay stopped play for more than an hour.
Infielder DJ LeMahieu (right big toe) did not start for the fourth straight game, but singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. LeMahieu said he expects to start Thursday.
Yankees star Aaron Judge, meanwhile, leads the majors with 46 home runs and 101 RBI.
Montas will make his first start at Yankee Stadium as a Yankee after being acquired from the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline.
He has a favourable pitching matchup as Berrios has a brutal 7.50 ERA in 11 starts away from Rogers Centre this year.
Berrios has given up eight runs in 10.1 innings of work in two starts in the Bronx this year.
Mitch White makes his third start for Toronto on Saturday after the Blue Jays announced Wednesday that the struggling Yusei Kikuchi would go to the bullpen.
The Blue Jays haven’t named a starter for Sunday’s series finale, but Alek Manoah would be on normal rest for that game.
The Yankees have triumphed in eight of 12 games between the teams this season, winning each of the past three series after splitting a four-gamer at Yankee Stadium in April.
The most recent series ended with a thriller as Toronto rallied from an 8-3 deficit for a 10-9 victory last month at Rogers Centre, snapping New York’s nine-game win streak.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a grand slam that day to get Toronto back in the game.
Another dramatic Jays win came in April when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit three home runs on the evening.
Toronto’s Whit Merrifield will reunite with ex-Kansas City Royals teammate Andrew Benintendi during the series.
Like Merrifield, Benintendi was dealt at the trade deadline to the Yankees.
Both players did not make the trip to Toronto for a series with the Royals last month because they were unvaccinated, but Merrifield got vaccinated before the deal.
Benintendi has said he is still open-minded about getting vaccinated.
The Yankees return to Toronto Sept. 26-28. They also are potential playoff foes.
After an off-day Monday, the Blue Jays play a three-game series in Boston against the Red Sox.