The outcome of Thursday night's game between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the Bronx turned out an awful lot like the previous 15 to take place between those two teams in that particular setting.
Behind a strong start from right-hander David Phelps, who threw seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball with seven strikeouts, the Yankees beat the Jays, 6-4, to complete the sweep. That makes it—count 'em—16 straight wins for the Yankees in New York against the team that currently sits atop the American League East.
The three-game brooming pushes the 38-33 Yankees to only 1.5 games behind Toronto and, perhaps just as importantly, extends a streak of dominance that dates all the way back to September 19, 2012 and could impact the division and playoff race.
As Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com wrote:
Toronto's record in New York gets even worse when dating to 2011 with a total of two wins in 27 games. The Blue Jays have lost 10 consecutive season series on the road in New York, with a 29-66 record over that span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York's all-time record vs. Toronto at the current Yankee Stadium (38-11) is the best for any Major League team vs. an opponent at any stadium (minimum 30 games).
Think Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is ready to get out of the Bronx? "Yeah, I would say so," Gibbons told Chisholm. "Hey, if you can play in primetime, you have to perform on the big stage and we didn't do it. We're fully capable of doing it, we just didn't do it. So, yeah, it'll definitely be good to move on."
This series was a bit of a statement from the Yankees to Toronto that the Blue Jays shouldn't expect to run away from the pack, despite a hot start that has them as the early favorites to win the AL East for the first time since 1993.
The Yankees already have beaten Toronto in five of their six matchups so far, and with 13 more still to come, the Blue Jays are going to have to prove they can beat them—especially in New York.
"It's a big stage here, you have to perform here," Gibbons said afterward of Yankee Stadium. "The next time we come to town, we have to change that around a little bit."
Of the 13 remaining head-to-heads, seven will be at Yankee Stadium, with three set for late July and then the final four to be played from Sept. 18-21. Considering how tight the division is, it's conceivable that last series might be a could-decide-the-East showdown.
As for this just-completed sweep, the Yankees pulled it off against three of Toronto's better starters.
On Thursday, New York got the better of right-hander Drew Hutchison, who leads the Jays with 73 strikeouts. Promising rookie Marcus Stroman pitched the opener, and Mark Buehrle, who's been one of the best starters in baseball to this point, took the mound in the sandwich game.
For the Yankees, this series—and sweep—also was key because it kicked off an important run of 15 consecutive games against division rivals.
The Yankees take on the Baltimore Orioles, who are just a game behind New York, at home before heading to Toronto and then coming back to the Bronx to battle the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Each is a three-game series.
With the hyper-competitive AL East very much up for grabs through nearly three months, there's no telling how things will play out. But if the past is any indication, the Yankees continue to show that they have the Blue Jays' number, particularly in New York.
If the Yankees extend their current sweet 16-game home win streak against Toronto any further over the second half, there's a very good chance that will be a factor in which team winds up winning the division.
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