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Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees: Series Preview

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The slumping Jays should be an easy target for the slumping Bombers.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Yankees have been slumping, but imagine if your team is the Toronto Blue Jays. Even though they’ve rebounded some, pushing their record to 37-44 after a horrid 8-17 start in April, they’ve lost five of their last six, dropping two of three to the Orioles and then losing three straight to the Red Sox. In their series with Boston, they were outscored 29-6.

By any measure, this is a much-diminished club from what we saw last year and the year prior. Offensively, they’re anemic: just 89 OPS+ overall. Their only above-average offensive players have been Justin Smoak (149 OPS+), Josh Donaldson (117 OPS+), and Steve Pearce (106 OPS+). Compare that with last year, where there were six regulars who were above-average offensively.

Pitching-wise it was clear they were going to have issues, but the thinking was that the hitting could compensate enough that they could just be average and survive. That has largely been the case, but, again, this was assuming the offense would be good. The staff has combined to be slightly above-average (103 ERA+), headlined by Marcus Stroman (132 ERA+), JA Happ (122 ERA+), and closer Roberto Osuna (202 ERA+).

Naturally, the Yankees are lucky enough to face all of their best pitchers this week, as they’ll face Stroman, Happ, and Marco Estrada (93 ERA+), in that order. The Yankees will have Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia (!), and Michael Pineda to oppose them.

In the last two weeks at least, roles of those pitchers have seemed to stabilize. Tanaka has pitched incredibly well (1.29 ERA), Severino has been about league average, and Pineda has allowed ten earned runs in his last 15.2 innings. Let’s hope it’s a “fluke” for Pineda, and Tanaka is back to normal.

In terms of playoff odds, the Jays are largely a lost group. FanGraphs gives them something like a 10% chance of making the divisional series, so unless they win ten in a row (which is still possible with the ceiling of the offense), they’ll largely sit near the back of the pack. It would behoove the Yankees, during a time of instability and some growing pains, to take advantage of a team that has been de-fanged offensively and merely OK on run prevention.

You have to beat the teams you can beat. The Astros and Red Sox can cause you headaches, but these teams can’t. It’s up to Tanaka to pitch like an ace, for Sabathia to come back without missing a beat, and Pineda to try to continue providing some consistency. If all works, they can start getting some revenge for the the last two years, as this was the time the Jays would themselves start pulling away in the race. It’s the Bombers’ turn.