The Toronto Blue Jays are slugging their way closer in the American League wild-card race.
How the next four games unfold could determine if the Blue Jays can increase their chances for attaining a playoff berth.
The Blue Jays hope to gain even more ground Monday afternoon when they visit the New York Yankees for the opener of a four-game series.
Toronto (73-62) is 7-1 in its past eight games and enters the series 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the first spot and four in back of the Boston Red Sox for the second spot.
The Blue Jays scored 29 runs in a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics. After winning a pair of close games, Toronto cruised to an 8-0 win on Sunday.
Bo Bichette went 4-for-4 and is hitting .425 (17-for-40) in a 10-game hitting streak. Marcus Semien hit his 35th homer and has homered in three of his last four games.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a two-run triple and is batting .361 (26-for-72) in his past 22 games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three hits and enters Monday batting .396 (21-for-53) during a career-best 13-game hitting streak.
“We’re confident, but we’ve got to keep working, keep our heads down and play as hard as we can,” Bichette said. “The rotation has been amazing, but when we hit like this and they don’t give up a lot of runs, it leads to a lot of wins. It’s been fun.”
When the Yankees (78-58) won 13 straight Aug. 14-27, they opened a 9 1/2-game lead on Toronto. Since its longest run in nearly 60 years, New York is 2-6 in its past eight, and each defeat is by two runs or less.
On Sunday, the Yankees blew a trio of three-run leads in an 8-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. That followed up a 4-3 loss on Saturday when New York was held hitless for 6 1/3 innings.
“Incredibly frustrating,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We didn’t put our best foot forward the last couple of days, and now we’ve got obviously a very good, hot team coming into play us, and we’ve got to do better.
“We get to write the story still and we’ve responded from tough days, tough moments, tough stretches, and we have to do it again.”
Gary Sánchez homered twice and drove in six runs. He hit a grand slam in the second inning and a two-run shot in the sixth before Andrew Heaney allowed four runs in the seventh.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon (8-5, 4.44 ERA), who has allowed 17 earned runs in his past four outings, will start for the Yankees on Monday.
Taillon saw a 15-start unbeaten streak stopped when he was tagged for a season-high six runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
Before taking the loss on Tuesday, Taillon was 7-0 with a 3.63 ERA in between losses. The Yankees went 11-4 in the streak and won the final eight games of it before Taillon allowed a three-run homer to Jared Walsh in the fourth.
Taillon is 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays. He last faced them April 13 in Dunedin, Fla., when the Blue Jays rocked him for five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 7-3 win.
Hyun Jin Ryu (12-8, 3.92) will start for Toronto and is coming off consecutive losses for the second time this season.
He was rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings Aug. 26 against the Chicago White Sox and allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday.
Ryu is 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees. This season he is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts against New York.
— Field Level Media