We can always expect the drama when the Yankees play the Blue Jays. In April, when Toronto visited the Bronx, known New York villain Vladimir Guerrero Jr. powered the Jays to taking two of three.
It was the opposite when the Yankees visited the Blue Jays for four games this week. The bats came alive with Aaron Judge leading the way. The pitching adjusted and overcame some bumps in the road, all thanks to manager Aaron Boone. Yes, we’re serious.
Guerrero was injured for the last two games but this series showed the same thing we all saw last year. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are not rivals. They’re two teams that don’t like each other and unfortunately share a division.
Hitting: Fans recall that in the April Bronx series, the Yankees struggled to score runs for two reasons. Giancarlo Stanton had just gone down with his hamstring injury and Judge was slumping badly, going 1 for 12 over three games. Guerrero, by contrast, hit .364 with a pair of homers.
The roles reversed in Toronto. Judge hit .428 with four home runs and Guerrero only hit .250. Granted, he also had three RBI, one of which was game-tying, but was otherwise a non-factor. So much for the Rogers Centre being “his house,” right?
The only real offense the Blue Jays got was from Bo Bichette, who hit over .400 with a home run. In fact, his home run was one of only three Toronto hit in four games. The Yankees outscored them 17-12.
Pitching: In fairness to the Blue Jays, their pitching has actually looked better this season despite Alek Manoah’s struggles. But in Toronto this week, the Yankees’ arms were in full control on the back of some excellent managing from Aaron Boone. Between using Jimmy Cordero as an opener Monday and pushing the right bullpen buttons after Domingo German’s ejection Tuesday, he practically put on a clinic.
None of this is to say Toronto’s arms fell flat. Three of their four starters pitched quality starts and Chris Bassitt extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 27. Even the streaky Jose Berrios looked sharp over 6.2 innings on Thursday.
Therein lies why the Yankees’ pitching looked better than the Blue Jays’ this week, and probably does as a whole. Toronto’s rotation is stacked with some great arms, but streaky arms. Now that the usually dominant Manoah is struggling, the staff’s flaws aren’t so tough to miss.
Should the Yankees worry about the Blue Jays? Short answer, no. Even with Guerrero hurt for two games and both George Springer and Matt Chapman slumping, Toronto doesn’t seem like a threat. They still match up well with the Yankees from a pure baseball standpoint, but their lack of execution takes the fire out of this “rivalry.”
Instead, the Blue Jays are a very good team that just has the misfortune of playing in MLB’s most competitive division. At best, they can either catch the Yankees on a bad day or flip the right switch to steal a win or two. Case in point, Wednesday’s scoreless duel between Bassitt and Gerrit Cole ended with Yankee killer Danny Jansen’s walk-off home run in extra innings.
This could all change later down the road, mind you. These teams don’t play again until September when playoff positioning could very well be a factor. Both the Yankees and Blue Jays could have very different rosters by then but as things stand now? Advantage New York.