Tonight, the Yankees will look to pick up where they left off in New York as they head north of the border to take on the Jays for a crucial four-game set at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees are 9-5 against a weak Toronto team this season, and will need to continue their dominance over the Jays as just seven games remain in the season. 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 Brandon Morrow tonight, who at his best is a dominant strikeout pitcher. Morrow has missed considerable time this year— namely over two months during the middle of the summer— thanks to an oblique injury.
He hasn't been the same since the injury, but the Yankees should be prepared to face his best as Morrow may view this game as his own personal playoff.
Ivan Nova will look to rebound tonight from an atrocious performance last Saturday at the Stadium. Nova, ironically enough, had his best performance since the All—Star break against these same Jays in Toronto on August 11. Nova fired seven and one-third innings of two-run, 10 strikeout baseball.
The problem is that Nova has been an enigma this season, routinely following an excellent start with a dud. He's in line for two more starts over the final seven games, and he'll likely either earn or not earn another potential start against Boston next Tuesday, depending on how he performs tonight.
The Bombers rebounded nicely on Wednesday afternoon by thoroughly dominating the Twins to win their 5th consecutive series. CC Sabathia fired his second straight gem, earning the win and pitching eight innings and striking out 10 batters for the second consecutive start. CC is getting hot at the perfect time for New York.
Toronto, like all of the AL East teams, has been greatly impacted by injuries and it shows in their record. Toronto has been without star Jose Bautista since late August, and Bautista has played only six games in the second 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 J.P. 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, Sunday 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 tied for 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 Rasmus.
The Yankees are hoping to continue their winning ways by getting production from their revamped batting order. Ichiro has now landed at the top of the order as both he and Derek Jeter are looking to set the table for the power bats of Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.
Mark Teixeira may be out for the season, but at the very least, he's not expected back in the lineup this weekend in Toronto. As a result, the pressure is on Swisher, Granderson and even Raul Ibanez to dissect Toronto's starting pitchers as the Jays will throw out three right-handed arms this weekend.
The Yankees need to ride their late season surge and finish off the Jays to claim their 17th postseason berth in 18 years, while Toronto is playing out their slate of games looking to see what players may be contributors or starters for their squad in 2013.
The Bombers have all that any team could ask for at this juncture: Their own fate in their hands. If they can win against a weak Toronto team, regardless of what Baltimore does against Boston this weekend, the Yankees will be primed to win the AL East.
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 26)
Team OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage)
Blue Jays: 19th
Team Home Runs
Blue Jays: T-5th
Blue Jays: 14th
Blue Jays: 25th
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP)
Blue Jays: 14th
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.297 BA, .890 OPS, 30 HR, 82 RBI); Derek Jeter (.320 BA, .800 OPS, 15 HR, 57 RBI, *leads MLB in hits); Curtis Granderson (.229 BA, .802 OPS, 40 HR, 97 RBI)
Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (.282 BA, .947 OPS, 42 HR, 107 RBI); Brett Lawrie (.269 BA, .708 OPS, 9 HR, 44 RBI); Colby Rasmus (.223 BA, .689 OPS, 22 HR, 74 RBI)