Thanks to an expanded playoff field, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees are in the mix for one of the eight postseason spots in the American League.
They will be looking to strengthen and even improve their positions in the race starting Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
New York (26-21) holds down the seventh spot, which gets a best-of-three against the second-best team in the AL, which currently is the 30-17 Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees own a comfortable lead for one of the wild-card spots after outscoring the Baltimore Orioles 21-3 in a four-game sweep over the weekend.
New York dominated a doubleheader Friday and then eked out two close wins on Saturday and Sunday. Luke Voit hit a leadoff sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to decide a 2-1 win Saturday, and Sunday Gleyber Torres hit a two-run, pinch-hit double in the eighth inning to give New York a 3-1 victory.
The results against Baltimore are part of a five-game streak that started Wednesday when Torres homered and drove in four runs in a 7-2 win over Toronto in Buffalo. The Yankees put together win streaks of seven and six games when they raced out to a 16-6 start, and this streak follows a 5-15 slide that dropped New York to .500 following a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays Tuesday.
When the Yankees fell to .500, they were three games in back of Toronto for second place in the AL East but now they are a half-game back.
“It’s something that we knew we were capable of,” Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier said. “It was just a matter of time for it to all come together and for some things to go our way.”
The Blue Jays (26-20) are seeking their first postseason appearance since back-to-back trips in 2015 and 2016. Those are Toronto’s lone playoff appearances since 1993, when it won its second straight World Series title to cap a stretch of five postseason appearances in nine seasons.
Toronto currently is fifth in the AL, trails Tampa Bay by 3 1/2 games, and would currently face the Minnesota Twins. The Blue Jays have seven games left with the Yankees sandwiched around series against the Philadelphia Phillies and Orioles.
Toronto is 8-4 in its last 12 games after taking two of three at home from the New York Mets. The Blue Jays dropped the opener 18-1 but rebounded with a 3-2 win on Saturday and a 7-3 victory on Sunday.
“We’re definitely peaking at the right time,” Toronto starter Hyun-Jin Ryu said through an interpreter after allowing a run in six innings Sunday. “Once we started winning it felt we could win on any given night. We gained more confidence in winning. We’re definitely in a good spot right now.”
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a two-run homer and is batting .323 over his last 27 games.
New York’s rotation owns a 1.95 ERA in its last nine games and rookie Deivi Garcia (1-1, 3.06 ERA) will make his fourth career start Tuesday. Garcia is earning praise from Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and beat Toronto Wednesday when he allowed two runs in seven innings.
“They’re a very talented team that I’m facing again,” Garcia said through an interpreter. “For me, it’s a matter of being aggressive and being able to execute my pitches.”
Taijuan Walker (3-2, 2.95) will make his fourth start since being acquired from Seattle. He is 1-0 with a 1.15 ERA with Toronto and held the Yankees to two hits in four scoreless innings Tuesday while also issuing five walks.
Walker is 0-2 with a 3.06 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.
–Field Level Media