The Toronto Blue Jays are a big part of what stands between the New York Yankees and another American League East division title. The Yankees will try and dispatch their division mates to the north en route to another postseason and they'll get help from an old friend who returns to start this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees are 6-5 against a weak Toronto team this season, with seven games left in the season series. The Blue Jays come in with nothing to play for other than personal pride and the chance to give their fans something to cheer about by putting a dent in the Yankees' postseason hopes.
Toronto will trot out two left-handed pitchers against New York, hoping to see see the Yankees' weaker "B" lineup that is filled with hitters the likes of Steve Pearce and Andruw Jones. The Yankees have mostly struggled against southpaws over the last two months, as evident by their weak performance against Felix Doubront at Fenway last week.
The Bombers rebounded nicely on Sunday at the Stadium by destroying highly-touted Tampa Bay lefty, Matt Moore, frustrating him through three innings and even agitating the young fireballer into throwing at Curtis Granderson's head.
Toronto, like all of the AL East teams, have been greatly impacted by injuries and it’s shown in their record. Toronto has been without star Jose Bautista since late August, though Bautista has played only six games in the 2nd half of the season. Bautista injured his left wrist while at the plate on a swing back in mid-July against New York.
Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind and JP Arencibia have all missed large stretches of time during the second half of the season, eliminating the Jays from playoff contention for a 19th consecutive season.
Toronto is hobbling to the end of the season and their pitching staff is practically praying things will end. Toronto ace Ricky Romero has endured a disastrous 2012 after getting off to a very nice start in his first three MLB seasons. Henderson Alvarez, Wednesday afternoon's starter, has been up-and-down of late, showing the inconsistency of a young starter.
Yet for all of Toronto's faults, they're still incredibly fifth in the majors in home runs. The Yankees should not take them for granted, particularly big sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasumus.
The Yankees are hoping to pounce on their prey and beat down the Jays at the Stadium continuing to build on the last two series victories. Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez have come alive for the Yankees at the right time as they near another AL East division crown.
The Yankees are hoping to gain ground on Baltimore and Tampa and find a late season surge while Toronto is playing out their slate of games looking to see what players may be contributors or starters for their squad in 2013.
Here is an offensive tale of the tape and a breakdown of the pitching match-ups:
By the Numbers (Major League rank through games played on September 18th):
Team OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage):
Blue Jays: 19th
Team Home Runs:
Blue Jays: 5th
Blue Jays: 11th
Blue Jays: 25th
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP):
Blue Jays: 9th
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.300 BA, .911 OPS, 30 HR, 77 RBI); Derek Jeter (.323 BA, .810 OPS, 15 HR, 55 RBI, *leads MLB in hits); Curtis Granderson (.235 BA, .816 OPS, 39 HR, 92 RBI)
Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (.279 BA, .947 OPS, 40 HR, 102 RBI); Brett Lawrie (.278 BA, .733 OPS, 9 HR, 43 RBI); Colby Rasmus (.231 BA, .712 OPS, 22 HR, 73 RBI)