After one of the most exciting Yankees weeks in recent memory, the Bombers are enjoying a well-deserved day off on Monday before hosting the Blue Jays in a three-game series. The Bombers haven’t seen the Bluebirds since the second week of the season, during which the Yankees went 2-4 across six games. Much has changed since Bo Bichette walked off Chad Green on April 14th — the Yankees went 23-12 and now sit in a tentative playoff spot, while the Jays have stumbled a bit to a .500 record and fourth in the AL East. They’re currently on a six-game skid, having just been swept by the red-hot Rays.
Toronto has scored 33 more runs than New York this season, but has also allowed 24 more. Although Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is enjoying a spectacular season, George Springer has only played in four games and is back on the IL, putting the pressure on Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernández to pick up the slack (and they’ve done well, for the most part). The Jays are also struggling to find pitching after ace Hyun Jin Ryu, who the Yankees are fortunate to dodge this series.
Tuesday: Corey Kluber vs. Steven Matz
Whenever the Blue Jays get their first hit off Kluber, it’ll be the first hit he’s allowed in almost two weeks. Kluber’s breaking ball was extra-sharp in his no-hitter against Texas on Wednesday, a weapon he could use to get ahead of hitters or finish them off. Kluber’s changeup also helped him generate plenty of weak contact. Of course, facing the Blue Jays is a lot different than facing the Rangers, and they did rough him up a bit early on in 2021. Kluber has heated up since then and is unbeaten in his last five starts while pitching to a 1.78 ERA and a .171 batting average against, averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
Matz, who turns 30 on the weekend, has been his usual self for the Blue Jays this season, his first outside of Queens. On the season, he’s notched a 4.69 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 92 ERA+. Start-to-start consistency has long eluded Matz, who began the year 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA but has pitched to a 6.93 ERA in his last five outings. While strikeouts are up this year, he’s still allowing too many baserunners. In seven career outings against the Yankees, he’s 1-3 with a 6.83 ERA.
Wednesday: Domingo Germán vs. Alek Manoah
Germán will look to continue his resurgent season on Wednesday. Since his demotion on April 11th, Germán has gone unbeaten in six starts while pitching to a 1.93 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He was particularly effective in his last start at Texas, throwing seven shutout innings. He’s yet to throw more than 92 pitches this season, but whatever he’s been doing has been working. Over this recent stretch, he’s performed like the number three starter the Yankees have been chasing for so long.
This would have been Anthony Kay’s spot in the rotation, but the Blue Jays demoted him after a poor start on Thursday. With Nate Pearson working on his mechanics in the minors and Ross Stripling booted from the rotation (he went seven as the “bulk guy” on Monday), Toronto only has three traditional starters at the moment. Thus, originally, we suspected that Wednesday would be a bullpen game, but it was later revealed that the Blue Jays would be calling up starter Alek Manoah:
Blue Jays promoting their top pitching prospect, right-hander Alek Manoah, to start Wednesday against the Yankees, sources tell @TheAthletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 24, 2021
Here’s a little background on Manoah, courtesy of Josh in the comments:
11th overall pick out of WVU in 2019, 2.65 ERA in Low-A that season. 0.50 ERA, 40.9 (!)% K rate with Triple-A this year. Much better than his prospect ranking, one of those guys that we have very little data on since he spent all of last season at the alternate site. Plus plus fastball with arguably the best slider in Triple-A. Should be exciting.
Thursday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Robbie Ray
The Yankees will start Jordan Montgomery in this game, coming off of his best start this season. Montgomery had a career-high 11 punchouts on Friday against a White Sox team that usually dominates lefties. He has put together a fine season all his own, to the tune of a 4.07 ERA, career-best 1.07 WHIP and 9.6 K/9.
The Blue Jays will counter with Robbie Ray in this one. A one-time All-Star who is still just 29 years old, Ray pitched seven innings of one-run ball while fanning seven Rays in his most recent start. The southpaw has always been good at missing bats, but has long struggled with his control. However, he’s never had a better walk rate than the 2.2 BB/9 he’s posting this season. On the other hand, his 3.79 ERA belies an unsightly 5.21 FIP. It’ll be interesting to see how the Yankees’ plate discipline holds up against Ray in the series finale.