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The Yankees are lucky the Blue Jays are slumping too

If the Blue Jays weren’t mired in a slog of their own, the division could look quite different.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

This has been an unbearable and unwatchable stretch of baseball from the New York Yankees. The time of patience in the media and during broadcasts is over, and the ugly numbers are constantly being repeated. After another quiet loss last night, they’re 2-9 in their last 11 games, and they have the second-worst record in the American League since the All-Star break at 8-17.

And yet the Yankees still have a 10-game division lead over the Toronto Blue Jays, the preseason favorites to easily take the crown. Luckily for the moribund Yankees, the Jays are stuck in a miserable stretch of their own and the Rays just passed them for second in the AL East at nine back of New York. The Yankees’ upcoming series with the Jays may be a test of who can snap out of it first.

The Blue Jays are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and have been passed in the Wild Card race by both the Mariners and those aforementioned Rays. The Orioles (!) beat them for the second straight night on Tuesday and lurk a mere half-game behind, with the Twins and White Sox right behind them too. Unlike the Yankees, Toronto has no cushy lead or margin for error.

Also bad for Toronto is the fact that they’ve been sliding while playing a slate of contenders. Their most recent series have come against the Guardians, the Orioles, and the Twins. If the Jays had only gone 6-5 against these teams, New York’s division lead would be down to seven games, which would’ve only added greater consequences to their upcoming four-game clash in the Bronx. Even beyond that, all of those teams are battling for the same playoffs spots, and as we learned last year, even one less win against a team can lead to a huge disadvantage in the Wild Card.

Like the Yankees, they’ve been losing in ways that feel particularly dispiriting, like losing a late lead. You may have seen that they held a 5-4 eighth inning lead in Baltimore before old friend Rougned Odor blasted a two-run home run off of Yimi Garcia — who is having a good season — to snatch the game away.

The Jays haven’t been scoring a lot, and on the days that they do score more than three runs their pitching has tended to give up even more. On Monday’s game against Baltimore, for example, Orioles starter Kyle Bradish had a bad game, allowing six hits and four walks over 4.2 innings pitched. Yet the Jays only scored three runs off him with all those baserunners, and their own starter Yusei Kikuchi couldn’t get through the fourth inning. It seemed like a cursed game from the start — the first batter of the day, Ryan McKenna, turned a pop up into a double.

Toronto’s postgame quotes these days sound like they could very well come from the Yankees’ clubhouse, too:

That’s just the way it’s going for these two teams right now. But just like the Yankees, the Blue Jays have the talent on paper to be winning at a much better pace than they are right now. That makes the fact that the Yankees are still holding onto a big division lead all the more surprising.

The Yankees are incredibly lucky these downswings are coinciding. If their division lead evaporated with the way they’re playing right now, what are the odds that they could reclaim it? The mood around the team is already dark enough with their nine-game advantage. If had shrunk almost in half over the first part of August, it would be even worse. If the Yankees continue to look uninspired in this upcoming series while the Jays show signs of life, the concern is only going to grow.