These two teams just met two weeks ago, so there's not much that needs to be said here. The Jays took two of three from the Yankees in that series in Toronto, but were outscored on the series as the Yankees ripped into Marc Rzepczynski and Brian Tallet in the middle game scoring 11 runs in six innings against the two with the aid of five home runs. In the opener, Brandon Morrow struck out a dozen Yankees as the Jays squeaked out a 3-2 win via an eighth-inning Jose Bautista homer off David Robertson in Ivan Nova's first major league start. In the closer, Phil Hughes got bounced early while Brett Cecil cruised and the Jays won 6-3. With the exception of Javier Vazquez taking over for Dustin Moseley in the middle game, the pitching matchups repeat in this series (more on those below).
Since then the Jays have split a four-game set with the Tigers and dropped two of three to the Rays, which is exactly what you'd expect them to do. Lyle Overbay and Yunel Escobar have been out of action recently with head and back injuries. Overbay, who developed concussion-like symptoms a few days after colliding with big Brian Tallet in the Yankee series (but doesn't actually have a concussion) is likely to remain out at least to start this weekend's three-game set. Escobar is more likely to return as early as this afternoon (all three games of this series start at 1:05). The Jays have also lost Edwin Encarnacion to a sprained wrist and have actually been using Bautista at third base on occasion in his absence.
So far the Jays have called up just one minor leaguer in September, that being catching prospect J.P. Arencibia, who hit .301/.359/.626 with 32 homers in a repeat of Triple-A this year at age 24, though it's worth noting the Jays' Triple-A affiliate is now Las Vegas, so Arencibia was in an extremely friendly hitting environment. Still, he has a ton of power. In his three full minor league seasons, Arencibia has hit 80 home runs while drawing 79 unintentional walks. He'll fit right in with this team.
Ivan Nova vs. Brandon Morrow (Friday, September 3, 1:05, YES)
Ivan Nova's first major league start was encouraging. His second (5 2/3 innings of one run ball with seven strikeouts against the contending White Sox) was impressive. His major league line is now a similarly impressive 14 IP, 15 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 11 K. However, Joe Girardi has yet to let Nova reach 90 pitches. I'm very curious to see what Nova can do if allowed to pitch deep into a game. In his first start, which came against these Jays, he was on pace to throw about 109 pitches in eight innings, but got the hook in the sixth after a bit of a dustup involving a close pitch to Jose Bautista, who had homered off Nova earlier in that game for one of the two runs Nova allowed in his 5 1/3 innings.
Morrow has faced the Yankees four times already this season, twice in Toronto, twice in the Bronx. In the two Toronto starts, he has allowed three runs in 13 innings. In the two New York starts, he has allowed ten runs in 11 1/3 innings. The one common denominator for the pitcher with the major's best strikeout rate (10.9 K/BB) has, of course, been strikeouts. In those 24 1/3 innings, Morrow has struck out 36 Yankees against just six walks. In his last seven starts, two of which came against the Yankees, he is 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA and 63 Ks in 43 1/3 innings. Morrow. After three seasons on being jerked between the rotation and bullpen by the Mariners, Morrow seems to have finally arrived as a dominant starter with the Blue Jays. It's amazing what a talented pitcher can do once he finds a team willing to just let him pitch. That said, this will be Morrow's last start of the season as the non-contender Blue Jays are capping his innings at 150.
Javier Vazquez vs. Marc Rzepczynski (Saturday, September 4, 1:05, YES)
Vazquez's return to the rotation was motivated by two strong long-relief appearances (combined line: 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 8 K) and the supposedly positive effects of a minor mechanical adjustment that has Vazquez bringing his left leg back further toward second base when starting his delivery in order to increase his momentum to the plate. The curious thing to me is that, as Jay wrote mere hours before Vazquez was pulled from the rotation, Javy supposedly had a dead arm, yet the Yankees made no real effort to rest him while he was out of the rotation. Vazquez twice pitched long-relief outings of four-plus innings, the first on three day's rest, the second on four-day's rest, and his start on Saturday will be again on four-day's rest. True, Vazquez threw fewer pitches in those outings than he would have in a start (including his last three-inning start, he's thrown no more than 70 pitches in his last three appearances, though no less than 55). Still, it seems odd. Maybe his problems weren't fatigue-related after all . . . or maybe they were and we're in for more ugliness on Saturday.
Speaking of ugliness, Rzepczynski (pron. zep-CHIN-ski) was lit up by the Yankees in their recent trip to Toronto, giving up six runs in three innings while striking out one. Four of those runs came via three home run over the course of four batters in the third, those home runs coming off the bats of Mark Teixeira, Marcus Thames, and Jorge Posada. Rzepczynski has made just one quality start in five major league opportunities this year and is 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA and 4.7 walks per nine innings in those five starts as the opposition has hit .290/.379/.510 against him, though those three aforementioned home runs are the only ones he's allowed in those five starts. For what it's worth Rzepczynsk is better than that, and not just because it's hard to be much worse.
Phil Hughes vs. Brett Cecil (Sunday, September 5, 1:05, YES/TBS)
Hughes hasn't been particularly sharp of late, but he has allowed no more than three runs and lasted at least five innings in seven of his last eight starts. The one exception came against the Jays in Toronto two turns ago (3 2/3 IP, 5 R). Hughes says he's not tiring, but I really wonder. He walked five men in each of his last two starts and in two of his last four struck out one and none. Over his last four starts, he has struck out 13 against 11 walks in 20 2/3 innings. Hughes will hit 150 innings in the first inning on Sunday. His previous career high was 146 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2006.
Brett Cecil has a 2.97 ERA over his last ten starts, and that includes the seven runs he allowed against the Angels in his only non-quality start of those ten. In three starts against the Yankees this year, Cecil is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA with an average of 7 1/3 innings pitched per start and the Blue Jays winning his one non-decision.
Toronto Blue Jays
2010 Record: 69-54 (.519)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 70-63 (.526)
Manager: Cito Gaston
General Manager: Alex Anthopoulos
Home Ballpark: Rogers Centre
Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-104, LH HR-115
RH Avg-107, RH HR-129
Who has replaced whom:
• Mike McCoy (mL) has replaced Edwin Encarnacion (DL)
• Travis Snider has replaced Lyle Overbay (non-concussion) in the lineup
• J.P. Arencibia (mL) and David Purcey (DL) have been added to the expanded active roster
1B - Adam Lind (L)
2B - Aaron Hill (R)
SS - Yunel Escobar (R)
3B - John McDonald (R)
C - John Buck (R)
RF - Jose Bautista (R)
CF - Vernon Wells (R)
LF - Travis Snider (L)
DH - Fred Lewis (L)
L - Lyle Overbay (1B)
R - Jose Molina (C)
R - J.P. Arencibia
R - Mike McCoy
L - Dewayne Wise (OF)
L - Ricky Romero
R - Shaun Marcum
R - Brandon Morrow
L - Marc Rzepczynski
L - Brett Cecil
R - Kevin Gregg
R - Jason Frasor
L - Scott Downs
R - Shawn Camp
R - Casey Janssen
L - Brian Tallet
L - Jesse Carlson
L - David Purcey
3B - Edwin Encarnacion (sprained left wrist)
RHP - Jesse Litsch (torn right hip labrum)
RHP - Dustin McGowan (setbacks after labrum surgery)
RHP - Dirk Hayhurst (frayed right labrum)
L - Fred Lewis (LF)
R - Yunel Escobar (SS)
R - Jose Bautista (RF)
R - Vernon Wells (CF)
L - Adam Lind (DH)
R - John Buck (C)
R - Aaron Hill (2B)
L - Travis Snider (LF)
R - John McDonald (3B)