The ultra-competitive American League wild-card race continues this week in Toronto. The Toronto Blue Jays will host the New York Yankees, an AL East rival and one of the teams they are trying to chase down for a wild-card spot, for a three-game set at Rogers Centre. Given the stakes, it is essentially a postseason series.
Here are the AL wild card standings as of Monday morning:
- Yankees: 89-67 (+1.0 GB)
- Red Sox: 88-68
- Blue Jays: 87-69 (1.0 GB)
- Mariners: 86-70 (2.0 GB)
- Athletics: 85-71 (3.0 GB)
The Yankees could clinch a postseason spot in Toronto if they sweep the Blue Jays while the Mariners lose at least one game to the Athletics during their series in Seattle. That would give New York a wild-card spot. Not necessarily the top wild-card spot, but a wild-card spot. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, need to sweep this series to pull ahead of New York in the standings.
"It's going to be good, I think everybody's excited for it," Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen told reporters, including The Athletic's Kaitlyn McGrath, over the weekend. "We're going to play the big dogs."
The last time these two teams played, the Blue Jays swept four games in Yankee Stadium and didn't allow the Yankees to hold a single lead all series. Here are the details for this week's Yankees vs. Blue Jays series at Rogers Centre. Select games can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free).
|Date||Start time||Starting pitchers||TV|
Tues., Sept. 28
7:07 p.m. ET
RHP Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.41 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (13-9, 4.34 ERA)
Weds., Sept. 29
7:07 p.m. ET
RHP Gerrit Cole (16-8, 3.08 ERA) vs. RHP José Berríos (12-9, 3.48 ERA)
Sportsnet, WPIX, ESPN
Thurs., Sept. 30
7:07 p.m. ET
RHP Corey Kluber (5-3, 3.82 ERA) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (13-6, 2.68 ERA)
Alas, we miss a Cole vs. Ray matchup by one day. Those two are the frontrunners for the Cy Young award, and I'd say Ray has the edge right now. He and Cole will both make their final regular season starts in this series and these starts could have an outsized impact on the Cy Young voting since they're facing each other's team. That could be a bit silly, but it is possible.
Here are five things to know going into this week's important series in Toronto, with a prediction thrown in for good measure.
1. Toronto already won the season series
No matter what happens this week, the Blue Jays have already clinched the season series against the Yankees. They are 10-6 against New York with three games to play. That's notable because it means Toronto holds the home-field advantage tiebreaker. Should these two teams finish with an identical record, the Blue Jays would host the Yankees in the Wild Card Game or a Game 163 tiebreaker, whichever is necessary.
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2. Yankees are back in Rogers Centre
The Blue Jays have been forced to play home games in three different ballparks this season because of Canada's pandemic travel restrictions: TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida (their spring training home), Sahlen Field in Buffalo (home of their Triple-A affiliate), and finally Rogers Centre in Toronto. They were given approval to return to Toronto in August.
Because of that, the Yankees will play their three road series against the Blue Jays in three different ballparks this season. They lost two of three in Dunedin in April, swept three games in Buffalo in June, and now play three games in Toronto. This is the first time the Yankees will visit Rogers Centre since Sept. 13-15, 2019.
To make the Yankees feel extra welcome, the Blue Jays were given government approval to expand capacity from 15,000 fans to 30,000 fans at Rogers Centre for their final homestand this week. That is roughly 56 percent capacity. Ontario's new ordinance allows sports venues to host 75 percent capacity or 30,000 fans, whichever is less.
"I think that's going to be awesome," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters, including Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, about expanded capacity last week. "When we had 15,000 it sounded great. I know what that place sounds like when there's a lot more than that, so it's going to be awesome. I'm looking forward to it."
3. Both teams have help coming
The Blue Jays and Yankees will both activate pitchers off the injured list this series. Ryu, who has been out with a neck issue since Sept. 17, is scheduled to start Tuesday's series opener. He struggled greatly prior to going on the injured list (33 runs in his last eight starts and 36 2/3 innings), so Toronto hopes the 10-day break sorts things out.
As for the Yankees, Taillon is returning from the injured list to start Tuesday's game. He's been sidelined with an ankle injury since Sept. 6. Taillon threw 51 pitches in a three-inning Triple-A rehab start last week and will likely be on a pitch limit. Also, ace reliever Jonathan Loáisiga may rejoin the Yankees this week. He's been out since Sept. 3 with a sore shoulder.
"Hopefully, if everything goes well with [Sunday's bullpen session], then he could potentially be active for the Blue Jays series," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including the New York Post's Greg Joyce, over the weekend. Loáisiga pitched to a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings and led all relievers with 3.1 WAR at the time of his injury.
4. Who's hot, who's not
The old saying is it's not who you play, it's when you play them, and the Yankees and Blue Jays both have several players riding hot streaks coming into the series. Here are some numbers over the last 14 days:
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Stanton has been on a rampage the last few games -- when he gets hot, he gets "put the team on his back" hot -- including hitting that titanic go-ahead grand slam against the Red Sox on Saturday. For the Blue Jays, Guerrero and Marcus Semien have played at an MVP level pretty much all season. Semien recently tied the single-season home run record for a second baseman.
On the flip side, the Yankees would like to get Gary Sánchez going (6 for 28 the last 14 days), and George Springer has really struggled for the Blue Jays. He's hitting .188/.274/.341 in September and has been banged up with various injuries. Springer did go deep Sunday, so perhaps he's coming around. Also, it should be noted Gurriel is day-to-day with a finger injury, and his availability for this week's series is uncertain.
5. The Blue Jays have the schedule advantage
On paper, the Blue Jays have a much easier schedule following this week's series. After hosting the Yankees, the Blue Jays will welcome the last-place Orioles to Toronto for a three-game series. The Yankees, meanwhile, go home to play the first-place Rays. Tampa has already clinched the division title, but the reduced September roster expansion rules mean they can't rest their regulars.
Any team can beat any other team on any given day in this game -- case in point: Toronto split four games with the last-place Twins over the weekend -- though I'd much rather finish up my season against the Orioles than the Rays if given the choice in a postseason race. Depending on the outcome of this series in Toronto, the final series this coming weekend could be of paramount importance.
Let's close with a prediction because there's no good reason not to. The official CBS Sports prediction: Yankees win two of three, which would potentially end Toronto's postseason push. It wouldn't be impossible for the Blue Jays to rebound from that to make the postseason, but it would be very difficult with the Red Sox facing the O's and Nationals this week.