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New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays: Series Preview

The Yankees head north for the first time this year.

MLB: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have taken care of business in four straight series against the Tigers, Guardians, Orioles, and Royals, and while I don’t want to disrespect any of those teams, it will be very surprising if they’re playing meaningful baseball in September. New York’s next opponent is a step up the difficulty ladder, as they head to Toronto to take on the 15-8 Blue Jays.

The Jays are coming off some strong performances of their own, taking two of three from the Astros this past weekend, Sunday’s win led by an incredible 10-strikeout, zero walk performance from Kevin Gausman. The former Oriole has been just about the best pitcher in baseball this season, and the Yankees are lucky to miss him on this trip.

Monday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Ross Stripling (7:07pm Eastern)

For some reason, I always think that Ross should be a lefty, and I’m glad that I looked at his MLB.com photo before typing anything out. He’s scuffled a little in a season and a half with the Blue Jays, but had a terrific April, posting a 3.60 ERA with a 2.25 FIP buoyed by a progressively improving walk rate.

Montgomery, meanwhile, might have more concerns about how the lineup performs than he does. He’s off to a great start this year, with a 2.70 ERA in 20 April innings. The Yankees did eventually put up five runs in his last start against the O’s, but a combined single run in 11 innings against Detroit and Baltimore has to put a lot of pressure on the lefty to be perfect.

Tuesday: Jameson Taillon vs. Alek Manoah (7:07pm Eastern)

Both starters have taken big steps forward early in 2022. Like Stripling, Taillon’s found the strike zone, posting a career-low walk rate, but his propensity to give up home runs has him pitching at a league-average rate. His HR/FB rate is in line with his career rate, so there’s probably no natural regression coming; if he can avoid the barrel of the bat, he should be successful.

Manoah, meanwhile, would be the toast of the pitching staff if Gausman were somewhere else. The big righty out of West Virginia boasts a sparkling 1.44 ERA while lowering his walk and HR rates from his rookie season. He also engineered a strong start against these Yankees earlier this year in the Bronx, going six shutout innings albeit while walking four men.

Wednesday: Nestor Cortes vs. Yusei Kikuchi (7:07pm Eastern)

Kikuchi really hasn’t been what the Jays wanted, even out of a fifth starter. He walks exactly as many batters as he strikes out, which is not generally something you want out of a starter at any spot in the rotation. He’s a lefty without much control, and lasted just 3.1 innings in his last outing against the Yankees.

Nestor, well, you all know about him. His last two starts haven’t been quite as stellar as his first two, simply because he actually allowed runs in them — three in 11.2 innings against the Royals and Guardians. If there’s one stat that I think is most reflective of a pitcher’s ability, it’s K-BB%, and Cortes’ 32.1 percent puts him in elite company, half a point lower than Gausman’s own mark.