Blue Jays vs. Yankees Series Preview: How Toronto can clinch wild card

Ben Nicholson-Smith joins Sportsnet Central to break down the Toronto Blue Jays' top priorities, aside from clinching a wild-card berth, in their remaining regular-season games, saying saving Kevin Gausman for a potential Game 1 should be priority 1b

The Toronto Blue Jays are in excellent position to nail down a wild-card berth in the final week of the season.

A 3-3 homestand will seal the deal — something less also could get the job done — after the Blue Jays won seven of their past nine games while the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners faltered.

The Blue Jays’ quest to lock up a wild-card spot for a second year in a row continues with a three-game series against the playing-out-the-string New York Yankees at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays are second in the American League wild-card standings (three wild-card teams make the playoffs in each league). They are 1.5 games in front of the Astros and three ahead of Seattle.

Here’s a look at the Blue Jays-Yankees series.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3:29 ERA) vs. New York RHP Michael King (4-7, 2.66 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Jose Berríos (11-11, 3.58 ERA) vs. New York RHP Gerrit Cole (14-4, 2.75 ERA)

Thursday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.74 ERA) vs. New York RHP Luke Weaver (3-5, 6.47 ERA)

All games on Sportsnet and Sportsnet Plus.

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays completed a 4-2 road trip against the Yankees and Rays (the same two teams they face this week) with a 9-5 win in Tampa on Sunday.

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George Springer hit an inside-the-park home run and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered twice as the Blue Jays won the rubber match.

Bo Bichette also homered for the Blue Jays, who got some much-needed offence after a sub-par start for Yusei Kikuchi (three runs on nine hits in four innings).

Trevor Richards replaced Kikuchi and pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The Blue Jays scored 37 runs in the six games on the road — a good sign for an inconsistent offence.

On the injury front, it’s possible Brandon Belt (back) returns after missing the past two weeks.

Latest on the Yankees

The Yankees (79-77) will not be going to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

New York was officially eliminated on Sunday after a 7-1 loss to the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s a far cry from last year when the Yankees won 99 games to take the AL East title and Aaron Judge hit an AL record 62 home runs.

“There’s a lot that went wrong,” Judge said. “We can hit it from a lot of different aspects but when it comes down to it, we just didn’t come out here and do our job.”

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The Yankees beat Arizona 6-4 in a rescheduled game on Monday to notch a 2-1 series victory.

Earliest Cinching Scenario

The earliest Toronto can secure a playoff spot is Wednesday. It would require two wins against the Yankees and the Astros completing a sweep of the Mariners. That scenario likely would see the spot wrapped up around 12:30-1 a.m. ET as the Mariners-Rangers game starts at 9:38 p.m. ET / 6:38 p.m. PT.

If the Blue Jays can secure a wild-card berth before Sunday’s season finale, they can save Gausman for Game 1 of the playoffs.

Press Repeat

The first two pitching matchups are identical to the last two matchups from last week’s series.

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The Yankees bullpen lost control after King struck out 13 and allowed one run in seven innings in a 6-1 Toronto win — Gausman allowed no runs and struck out 10 in six innings — in the second game of last week’s series. The next night, Cy Young favourite Cole allowed one run on two hits and struck out two in eight innings in a 5-3 Yankees win over Berríos and the Blue Jays.

What’s up for Judge?

While Judge told reporters he plans to play the rest of the season on Sunday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone called the situation “fluid” on Monday.

Judge has been sidelined by hip and toe injuries this season.

Season Series

The Blue Jays are 5-5 against New York after winning two of three at Yankee Stadium last week.

Out of Town

The Mariners are hosting the Astros in a three-game series. Houston won the opener 5-1 on Monday. The Texas Rangers, who lead the AL West by 2.5 games, are in Los Angeles for a three-game series against the Angels. Texas won the opener 5-1.

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The Blue Jays have the tiebreaker on Houston, but not on Seattle or Texas.

Up Next

The Blue Jays conclude the regular season with a three-game series against the visiting Rays. Wild-card games, if they make it, will be Oct. 3-5.

— With files from the Associated Press

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