The Yankees, chasing the final Wild Card spot, now have some critical games against a team in their way: The Toronto Blue Jays.
We’ve all seen the movie that Vlad Guerrero Jr. markets with passion worthy of Tommy Wiseau. Toronto talks and talks and talks, literally, all offseason about how not only is the World Series imminent, but they’ll also slay the mighty Yankees dragon.
Cut to the end of the season and the Yankees are in the playoffs. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, often take an early autumn visit to Ontario’s plentiful golf courses and wineries.
The script has flipped in 2023. The Yankees are six games out of the last two Wild Card berths. Those two spots are currently held by the Rangers and Mariners.
However, the second Wild Card is held by…the Toronto Blue Jays, and only by a single game. And the Yankees, of their 12 remaining games, play the Jays six times. In fact, Toronto visits the Bronx for three games starting Tuesday.
So with the Yankees leading the season series 4-3, we should expect them to roll, right?
Not so fast. The Blue Jays have still been the better team all year and just swept the Red Sox. The AL East is also the most competitive division in baseball. So competitive that it may have three playoff teams this year.
It’s also worth noting the Blue Jays have a Top 10 offense led by Guerrero and their pitching isn’t bad either. It ranks second behind Seattle in all of MLB with a 3.74 ERA compared to the eighth-ranked Yankees’ 3.97. Note that the Blue Jays’ projected starters for the series, altogether, average out to a 3.56 ERA.
That means the bats decide the series, and things get interesting here. Toronto has a middling offense in terms of runs scored, at 16th, but still well above the 23rd-ranked Yankees. However, New York still ranks seventh in home runs despite season-long struggles. Toronto only ranks 18th.
Dig a little deeper and it’s an even tougher call. The Blue Jays wRC+ ranks 10th at 107, the Yankees’ 20th at 94. However, Toronto’s .303 BABIP is tied for (again) 10th compared to the dead-last Yankees at .266.
Now, just for fun, let’s add usual Toronto Yankees assassin Danny Jansen being out with a broken thumb.
Anyway, that’s a lot of stats for a late-season divisional series, but you get the idea. The Blue Jays, even with all their talent, aren’t just another punching bag this season. They’ve got a pretty decent playoff positions and, finally, the arms to carry the bats.
The two will face off for a final crucial three-game series in Toronto exactly a week from now. This Bronx series will set the tone.
One of the Yankees or Blue Jays will make the playoffs this year. Perhaps both, if you ask Jomboy.
Either way, we’ll soon have the answer. Strap in for three intense games!