These are the kinds of baseball games that MLB needs: high drama, with teams fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. Yankees fans probably wish a postseason berth had been locked up at this point, but here we are, playing meaningful games in the final week of the regular season. The Yankees can strengthen their playoff chances with a series win over the Blue Jays, and that begins tonight with a strong showing in game one of this critical three-game set.
Talk about a reintroduction by fire for Jameson Taillon. Just a day after being reinstated from the IL, he will start the latest “most important game of the season.” Considering it is his first action in over three weeks, it’s easy to imagine that Taillon will have a short leash or even be on a pitch limit. The Yankees are well-positioned to accommodate such a scenario, with both Michael King and Luis Severino pitching lights-out in several multi-inning relief appearances since their respective returns from injury. Still, it would be nice to see a strong performance from Taillon to build confidence for future starts. On the year, Taillon is 8-6 in 27 starts, with a 4.41 ERA, 4.49 FIP, and 136 strikeouts in 138.2 innigns.
There are few starting pitchers who have dominated the Yankees more over the last two seasons than Hyun Jin Ryu. Since he joined the Blue Jays, he owns a 2.50 ERA in six starts against the Bombers, and has thrown the second-most innings (36) and owns the second-highest groundball rate (59.2 percent) of all starters with at least 10 innings pitched versus New York. As he makes his 30th start, Ryu sits at 13-9 with a 4.34 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 133 strikeouts in 159.2 innings.
The Yankees once again come close to fielding their most potent lineup — accept of course for the continued preference of Brett Gardner over Luke Voit. It’s a particularly puzzling choice with Ryu pitching, against whom Voit owns a .500/.500/1.000 batting line in six at-bats while Gardner has only managed to hit .167/.231/.167 in 12 at-bats. It would behoove the Bombers to get all their sluggers in the lineup given the strength of the lineup they are facing.
Speaking of that Blue Jays batting order, this one could be a slugfest. There are few more intimidating lineups than the one Toronto sends out tonight. They lead the league in home runs (248) and have the second-lowest strikeout rate (20.2 percent) in MLB. The fact that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien sit two-three atop the AL fWAR leaderboard and hit back-to-back atop the Blue Jays lineup is frankly terrifying. Taillon and the rest of the Yankees’ staff will have to be on top of their games to navigate this treacherous gauntlet of hitters.
How to watch
Location: Rogers Centre — Toronto, Ontario, CA
First pitch: 7:07 p.m. ET
TV broadcast: WPIX, SNET, MLB Network (out-of-market only)
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online stream: MLB.tv