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New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Series Preview

The Yankees make a quick stop north of the border for a two-game series with their division rivals.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Yankees opened the season in Toronto and played the Blue Jays seven times overall in April, but haven’t faced their division foes since. A lot has changed in the interim. The Yankees scuffled over the season’s opening few weeks but soon caught fire. The Blue Jays started off strong but have faded, and now sit 10 games out of a playoff spot.

This is just a two-game set, but sweeping it away from Toronto could push them further from contention and towards selling. In delivering early-season knockouts to their divisional opponents, the Yankees could kill a couple birds with one stone: not only can they boost their own record, but spurring their division rivals to tear down prior to the trade deadline can help soften the Yankees’ brutal schedule.

The team is set to play 41 games in 41 days, though they will get a quick off-day on Thursday following this four-games-in-three-days stretch. Let’s get to the matchups:

Game One: CC Sabathia vs. Marco Estrada

After a brilliant start to the season, Sabathia came back down to Earth in May. He lowered his ERA to 1.39 after tossing six shutout frames against Cleveland on May 4th, but he’s allowed 16 earned runs in 18.1 innings since. His last outing was better, holding the Astros to three runs, but he still needed 99 pitches to navigate only five innings.

As a soft-tossing command artist, Sabathia is going to have times where, if he falters a bit, he yields a bundle of walks and homers. He’s allowed at least one home run in each of his past four starts, and his BB/9 is over four across that stretch. The Blue Jays as a team have a paltry 89 wRC+ against lefties this year, are missing star third baseman Josh Donaldson, and have refused to call up wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to replace Donaldson. Perhaps this a good place for Sabathia to get going again.

Sabathia’s opponent, Estrada, hasn’t come down to Earth recently: he’s just been bad all year. Estrada was one of Toronto’s better pitchers from 2015 to 2017, but he’s run a 5.68 ERA in 11 starts in 2018, with a 5.21 FIP to match.

Estrada is simply too homer-prone. He has always been an extreme fly ball pitcher, and his groundball rate is down to a microscopic 26% this year. Estrada’s rate of homers per fly ball isn’t out of the ordinary, but when you yield almost exclusively balls in the air, you’re sure to see some fly over the fence. That would seem to be a positive sign for the Yankees’ offense as they head to Toronto.

Game Two: Sonny Gray vs. Sam Gaviglio

It’s SG vs. SG in the final game of this short series. It’s obviously been a frustrating season for Gray, who’s mixed flashes of brilliance in with some brutal outings. His last effort was one of those glimpses of brilliance, as he allowed just one run and walked none across six innings in Baltimore.

Gray has mostly been better over the past month, with quality starts in four of his past six, but he’s mixed a pair of five-run stinkers in there as well. A more consistent Gray would be a huge boon to the rotation, and he has a chance to string together a pair of strong starts here against the Jays.

Gaviglio makes for a fairly anonymous opponent. He’s bounced from the Cardinals to the Mariners to the Royals to the Blue Jays over the past few years. He has only 96 career innings in the big leagues to his name, and is making just his fourth start of the year.

He has been reasonably effective so far, striking out 22 and walking four in 21.2 innings thus far, posting a 3.32 ERA in that small sample. Still, Gaviglio’s a 28-year-old spot starter that relies on an 89 mph sinker. The Yankees should be expected to beat him on most nights.

This is just a two-game series in Toronto, but it’s one against a struggling team in which the Yankees have the pitching advantage on both nights. Hopefully they can get the job done and come away with victories in both.