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New York Yankees @ Toronto Blue Jays: Luis Severino vs. Kevin Gausman

As Aaron Judge continues to go for No. 61, the Yankees now go for the AL East clinch tonight in Toronto.

MLB: MAR 29 Yankees at Blue Jays Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As I outlined in the Yankees/Blue Jays series preview earlier today, the Yankees have a chance to mathematically end the AL East race right now. They’re 8.5 games up on Toronto with just 10 left to play, so a win will eliminate the second-place Jays and cement New York’s 20th division title and just its second since 2012. Even if they don’t get the job done tonight, they’ll have two more cracks in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday (not to mention afterward in separate contests), but let’s just end it here, yeah?

Aaron Judge is still the story, as he’s been stuck on 60 homers since his ninth-inning shot on Tuesday against the Pirates. He couldn’t reach No. 61 at home, so the shot to tie Roger Maris might have to come north of the border. Some fierce Yankees will surely make the trip anyway, so it won’t be as though he’s doing it in an empty ballpark.

For more on the pitching matchup between Luis Severino and Kevin Gausman, I’ll simply repeat what I wrote this morning rather than repackage it with different words:

Luis Severino made his long-awaited return from the 60-day injured list on September 21st against the Pirates and looked like he’d fully recovered from the lat strain that derailed his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. In 16 first-half starts, the right-hander pitched to a 3.45 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, and 27.2-percent strikeout rate. All systems were go on the 21st, when Severino threw five innings of two-hit, one-run ball, walking just a single batter and fanning six Pirates along the way. He was limited to 64 pitches then, but with just one more scheduled start before playoff time, expect New York to push him a little further.

Severino already has his hands full with an intimidating Blue Jays offense, and his mound opponent won’t make the matchup any easier. Simply put, Kevin Gausman is the best starter in the American League by several metrics. Thanks to a league-leading 1.82 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 163 post-Tommy John innings at age 39, Justin Verlander is the favorite to win his third Cy Young Award, but Gausman has him beat in FIP (2.37), strikeout rate (28.2 percent), walk rate (3.9 percent), and FanGraphs WAR (5.5). The man shoves.

The free agent addition has been everything that the Blue Jays could’ve dreamed of when they signed him away from the Giants, though if the Yankees are looking for hope, he has coughed up at least four runs in half of his last eight starts. Is this a little arbitrary? You bet. Did he pitch quite well in the other four starts, including at New York on August 19th? Yup! But it’s something, and as previously noted, the Yankees are playing better than they did in mid-August.

Gausman is a tough enough pitcher that the Yankees might struggle to put runs across tonight (even with a superior lineup to August 19th), but Aaron Boone has to feel good about Severino getting a chance to pitch against a team that he might face again in October. At the very least, this should be an excellent test, and I think that Sevy will rise to the occasion.

The Yankees will deploy the lineup that seems to have becomes its de facto starting nine since center fielder Harrison Bader joined the team off the 60-day IL. Jose Trevino’s behind the plate and the infield from the left-to-right is Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Gleyber Torres, and Anthony Rizzo, while the outfield features Judge in right, Bader in center, and rookie Oswaldo Cabrera in left. Giancarlo Stanton will DH. This might well be the lineup for the first game of the playoffs, particularly if their currently-injured players (DJ LeMahieu, Matt Carpenter, etc.) can’t get back to form in time.

Let’s go Yankees and let’s go Judge.

How to watch

Location: Rogers Centre - Toronto, ON

First pitch: 7:07 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES, SportsNet, TVA Sports, MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1380, SN590

Online stream: (out-of-market only)

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