After taking two out of three against the Red Sox, the Yankees head to Toronto to face the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre for the first time this season. The Yankees will be looking for their tenth straight series win, and it looks like they could be catching the Blue Jays at the right time. Toronto has lost six straight heading into the series and ten of their last 11. Here’s how the two AL East teams line up for the next three nights in Toronto.
Game One: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Clayton Richard
The Blue Jays will deploy left-hander Clayton Richard to try to stop the bleeding in game one of the series. It will be Richard’s third start of the season, and he’s actually pitched quite well in his first two starts since returning from a knee injury suffered in spring training. The 35-year-old veteran gave up one run in four innings against Boston on March 23 and two runs in four innings on March 28 in Tampa. As a team, the Yankees have very little experience facing Richard, as he’s spent most of his career in the National League. DJ Lemahieu is slashing .350/.435/.500 in 24 plate appearances against Richard, so the Yankees might look to him for a firsthand scouting report.
Tanaka will get the ball for the Yankees, coming off six days rest. The right-hander is 16-4 with a 3.12 ERA in his career when he gets six or more days rest between starts, a promising sign for the Yankees. He also owns a career 3.38 ERA at the Rogers Centre, the park where he made his debut in 2014.
Game Two: James Paxton vs. Trent Thornton
Paxton, a Canada native, will look to recreate some magic back home in his second start since returning from a left knee injury. Paxton threw the sixth no-hitter in Mariners history at the Rogers Centre last May and is 3-1 with a 4.01 ERA in Toronto in his career. However, Paxton has struggled on the road this season and owns a 7.20 road ERA in three starts. He’ll be searching for his first quality start on the road after four shutout innings against San Diego in his last outing.
Trent Thornton looks to get the start for the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The rookie right-hander is 1-4 with a 4.53 ERA this season and will face the Yankees for the first time in his career. According to Statcast, Thornton has elite spin rates on his fastball and curveball, but has had a lot of trouble against lefties, especially at home, where left handers bat .395/.438/.907 against him. Don’t be surprised if Aaron Boone gets Kendry Morales into the lineup for this particular matchup and gives a right-handed hitter an off-day.
Game Three: J.A. Happ vs. Edwin Jackson
Happ returns to Toronto, where he spent parts of six seasons before the Yankees acquired him at the trade deadline last season. The veteran lefty has been much better on the road than at home this season, and he should be comfortable in a building where he has made 67 career starts with a 3.59 ERA. Facing Happ will be journeyman Edwin Jackson. who has now played for 14 of the 30 MLB teams, an MLB record. Jackson has struggled against the Yankees throughout his career with a 5.21 ERA in 77.2 innings, and is coming off a disastrous start against Colorado. The right-hander got pummeled for 10 runs in 2.1 innings and fell to 0-3 with a 13.22 ERA in four starts this season.
It’s a small sample size, but Aaron Hicks has a double and a home run in his only two career at-bats against Jackson. Hicks and the top of the Yankees’ order will be looking to get to Jackson right from the jump, as his 15.75 first inning ERA is indicative of the slow starts he’s gotten off to consistently this season. If the Yankees are going to win the AL East, they’ll have to dominate against Toronto the same way they’ve dominated against Baltimore so far this season, so this three-game set could be a great chance to kick a struggling division opponent while they’re down and set the tone for their matchups the rest of the season.