After eking out three wins over the weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays hope to enhance their positioning in the wild-card race Tuesday night when they visit the New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series.
The Blue Jays (83-67) began Monday with a half-game lead over the Texas Rangers for the second wild card in the American League. Toronto had held a 1 1/2-game lead over Texas before getting outscored 35-9 in a four-game sweep last week, which dropped them to 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
Toronto followed up its woes against Texas by scoring 10 runs in three games, enough to sweep the visiting Boston Red Sox. After needing 13 innings to get a 4-3 win on Saturday, Toronto blew the lead in the ninth Sunday before Matt Chapman won it with a double in the bottom half.
“It’s kind of how this whole year has been going,” Chapman said. “A lot of ups and downs for us. We get swept, then sweep somebody.”
Toronto won two of three in New York in April and then dropped three of four at home to the Yankees in mid-May. The Blue Jays lead the Yankees by seven games and face them six times over their final 12 games.
New York (76-74) fell 10 1/2 games out when it dropped nine straight last month. The Yankees are 16-9 since Aug. 22 but made small inroads in its deficit and began Monday 6 1/2 games out.
The Yankees are returning for their final homestand after a 5-2 road trip through Boston and Pittsburgh. New York was unable to finish off the sweep of the Pirates when it dropped to 17-23 this year in one-run games with Sunday’s 3-2 loss.
DJ LeMahieu hit an RBI double and rookie Anthony Volpe homered but the Yankees were held to four hits. It was the 27th time the Yankees were held to four hits or fewer, and they are 2-25 in those games.
“That’s why we’re here: to go out there and win some games,” New York slugger Aaron Judge said. “We’re not out of it, and we’re going to keep fighting, especially with this group.”
Yusei Kikuchi (9-6, 3.81 ERA) will open the series for Toronto and attempt to end a seven-game winless skid. Since beating Baltimore on Aug. 2, he is 0-3 with a 4.23 ERA, and the slump continued when he allowed six runs in five innings of Wednesday’s 10-0 loss to Texas.
The left-hander is 3-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts) against the Yankees. Kikuchi last faced them April 21 in New York, when he allowed one run on four hits in six innings of a 6-1 win as part of his 5-0 start to the season.
Clarke Schmidt (9-8, 4.56), who has allowed three earned runs or fewer 24 times in 29 starts, goes for the Yankees. Schmidt is 1-2 with a 5.81 ERA in his past six starts and took a no-decision Thursday in Boston, when he allowed four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings.
Schmidt is 0-2 with an 0.00 ERA in four career appearances against the Blue Jays. His lone start against Toronto occurred on April 23 in New York, when the right-hander allowed three unearned runs in 5 2/3 innings while allowing homers to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Daulton Varsho in a 5-1 loss.
–Field Level Media