Aaron Judge Vladimir Guerrero Jr
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After nine wins in a row, the pressure is on for the Yankees when they pay a visit to the Blue Jays in Toronto.

The Yankees have the best record in baseball, a 1.5-game lead over the Jays in the American League East, and, best of all, they’re fully vaccinated. No more worries about if Aaron Judge or Anthony Rizzo can play. This week, it’s all about winning important games against a rival team and padding that division lead.

The last time these two faced off, ESNY accurately predicted a series split at Yankee Stadium. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a three-home run game. Luis Severino struck him out three times the very next night. Fans got to witness what could be a close and competitive playoff series come October.

The difference now is we have a better understanding of what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are. How will they affect this three-game set at the Rogers Centre?

Let’s dive right into it.

Yankees (16-6) at Blue Jays (15-8)

Time: All games at 7:07 p.m. ET

TV: All games on YES

Probable Pitching Matchups (Yankees pitcher listed first):

  • Monday: Jordan Montgomery (0-1, 2.70 ERA) vs. Ross Stripling (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
  • Tuesday: Jameson Taillon (1-1, 3.26) vs. Alek Manoa (4-0, 1.44)
  • Wednesday: Nestor Cortes (1-0, 1.31 ERA) vs. Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.52)

Worth watching: Aaron Judge must have remembered it is his contract year. The Yankees’ star right fielder and future top offseason priority is batting .333 with seven home runs ever since New York went on this winning streak. Judge has also hit well at the Rogers Centre since debuting, a respectable .260 with ten homers and a 1.032 OPS. The early MVP candidate also owns a .304 lifetime average against the Blue Jays for his career.

Speaking of MVPs, former Blue Jay Josh Donaldson makes yet another return to the city where he became a household name. He’s slowly starting to heat up and is a .290 career hitter in Canada and could be the next Yankee to go on a hot street.

Key matchup: Alek Manoah has made just 24 starts in his young career, and dominated the Yankees in three of them. The 24-year-old owns a 1.53 ERA against the Yankees and is a rare type: a flyball pitcher who doesn’t allow hard contact. Manoah has a flyball rate (FB%) of 50% compared to allowing 18.8% hard contact. Hot as the Yankees have been, they’ll need to be at their best against the big righty.

X-factor: Gleyber Torres has hit a respectable .296 during this nine-game winning streak, but is still batting just .222 on the season. A look at the numbers confirms the worst: He’s trying to do too much. His walk rate (BB%) is practically cut in half compared to last year. His chase rate is in the 24th percentile. Even as he uses the whole field, he isn’t barreling the ball the way he should.

Bad luck has a lot to do with it, as Torres’ BABIP is only an average .255 despite regular hard contact. Yet, even though he’s never hit the Blue Jays well, the Yankees really need a strong series from him.

Final thoughts and prediction: This is a tough call because the Blue Jays are still a good, good team, even as they figure out their pitching. New York is also the better and hotter team on paper right now, but they have to lose at some point. This will be a close series but given the pitching matchups, even as Ross Stripling is now a soft contact machine, the Yankees should eke one out again. Yankees take two of three.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.