9/18-9/20 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Welcoming back Andy Pettitte
Jeter may not be ready to return to the field just yet
Vizquel is definitely the cool uncle. (Claus Andersen/Getty)

The Yankees only have 16 games left to play this season, but seven of the 16 will be against the Blue Jays. The first three of those seven will be played this week in the Bronx. New York leads the season series 6-5.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Jays have lost four of their last six games by losing the first two games and winning the third in a pair of three-game series. Injuries have hit them hard, and they’re just 16-29 in their last 45 games. At 66-79 with a -37 run differential, Toronto is fending off the Red Sox for the AL East cellar.


(Brad White/Getty)

With a team 93 wRC+ and an average of 4.5 runs per game, the Blue Jays have been just a bit below an average offense this season. Of course those season numbers aren’t really an accurate representation of their injury depleted lineup, which is still without Jose Bautista (134 wRC+). You might remember him suffering what proved to be a season-ending wrist injury taking a swing against David Robertson earlier this year. Toronto still has Edwin Encarnacion (154 wRC+) though, and he’s currently second in the league with 40 homers. He’s basically the new Bautista.

Brett Lawrie (98 wRC+) recently came off the DL and is their second best healthy hitter right now. Colby Rasmus (88 wRC+) and Adam Lind (86 wRC+) have their moments, but both can be neutralized by left-handers. J.P. Arencibia (86 wRC+) recently came off the DL as well, and if nothing else he can hit the ball out of the park. Rajai Davis (86 wRC+), Kelly Johnson (84 wRC+), Moises Sierra (83 wRC+ in limited time), and Anthony Gose (81 wRC+ in limited time) haven’t been all that productive. Yunel Escobar (74 wRC+) is in some hot water and it’s unclear if the league will suspend him at some point. We’ll find out this afternoon.

Yorvit Torrealba (67 wRC+) and Jeff Mathis (74 wRC+) highlight the rest of Toronto’s position player crop. Omar Vizquel (38 wRC+) is the punchless utility infielder, and the lot of September call-ups includes Adeiny Hechavarria, Yan Gomes, and Mike McCoy. The Jays are healthier than the last time they played the Yankees, but they’re still missing a lot of their typical punch.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Ricky Romero
The nightmare season is almost over for the 27-year-old Romero, who has pitched to a 5.87 ERA (5.15 FIP) in 29 starts and 167 innings this summer. Two starts ago he allowed seven runs while recording just three outs. The strikeout (6.09 K/9 and 15.0 K%) and ground ball (53.1%) rates are career-lows while the walk (5.07 BB/9 and 12.4 BB%) and homer (1.08 HR/9) rates are career-highs. Yeah, it’s that bad. Romero is the same guy stuff-wise — low-90s four-seamer, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball — but his location is just terrible. The Yankees have both pounded and been shut down by the southpaw this year.

(Brad White/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez
Alvarez, 22, has the lowest strikeout rate (3.31 K/9 and 8.5 K%) among qualified starters in baseball this year, by nearly a full whiff per nine too, and yet he managed to set a season-high with six strikeouts against the Yankees a few weeks ago. His performance is in line with what you’d expect from an AL East pitcher who allows so much contact (4.91 ERA and 5.33 FIP), though he does mitigate the damage by limiting walks (2.72 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) and getting grounders (57.3%). Alvarez uses two fastballs (low-to-mid-90s two- and four-seamers) to set up his two offspeed pitches (mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup). The Yankees have seen him twice this year, once hammering him and once getting kept in check.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Aaron Laffey
Injuries have forced the 27-year-old Laffey into the rotation this year, and the former Yankee has pitched to a 4.55 ERA (5.55 FIP) in 87 total innings for the Jays. He doesn’t strike anyone out (4.66 K/9 and 12.2 K%) but will get some grounders (49.6%), though he is homer prone (1.55 HR/9) and will occasionally walk himself into trouble (3.31 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%). Laffey is a soft-tosser as you probably remember from last season, routinely sitting in the mid-80s with the four-seamer and cutter while mixing in low-80s sliders and changeups. Classic kitchen sink approach. He’s faced the Yankees once in relief this year, with little success.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Jays had Monday off and come into the series with a fresh bullpen. Manager John Farrell has a strong righty-lefty setup duo in Brandon Lyon (3.03 FIP) and Darren Oliver (2.91 FIP) in front of closer Casey Janssen (3.22 FIP). Southpaw Aaron Loup (1.98 FIP) has emerged as a dominant specialist, and Steve Delabar (4.26 FIP) has been surprisingly strong since coming over at the trade deadline. Long-time Blue Jay Jason Frasor (3.84 FIP) will also see some late-game work. The rest of the bullpen features deadline pickup Brad Lincoln (3.75 FIP) and a bunch of September call-ups: Chad Beck, David Carpenter, Joel Carreno, and Chad Jenkins.

Although Joe Girardi‘s core relievers had yesterday off, they have been worked hard of late as Ken Davidoff explained. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details, but I don’t think you need me to tell you that David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Rafael Soriano could use a few innings on the sidelines in blowouts this week. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, we recommend Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.

Welcoming back Andy Pettitte
Jeter may not be ready to return to the field just yet
  • Robert

    Weather looks bad for tonite Will they do a day nite Doulbeheader Tomorrow?

    • Joe

      The rain and wind slammed my door shut. Which woke me up. Ugh.

      Yea I bet doubleheader.

    • Pat D

      Yea, I’d expect it would be tomorrow even though Thursday’s scheduled game is a night game. Not really nice to ask Toronto to play 2 on a getaway day.

      And I’m sure the Yankees wouldn’t want to do that with Oakland coming in on Friday.

      The good news is that the relievers would get another day off, with the obvious bad news being they could get overtaxed tomorrow.

      • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

        Sad to think that we’re worried about the relievers being overtaxed Wednesday with Sabathia going Thursday. He was brought in not just because he could win games, but eat innings while doing it, acting as a de facto off day for the relievers. We can’t count on either right now from him.

  • MannyGeee

    Tu Ere Maricon… That is all

    Signed, Yunel

    This has got to go in the “What… Didnt think anyone would notice??” category along with Melky & Bartolo…

    • Joe

      Yunel is an idiot.

    • DC

      Yeah, I would love to hear the reasoning behind that move.

  • MannyGeee

    “The Yankees have both pounded and been shut down by the southpaw this year.”

    “Yankees have seen him twice this year, once hammering him and once getting kept in check”

    I feel like we’ve seen alot of this in 2012 Series Previews… talk about a tale of two cities.

    • Pat D

      It’s deja vu all over again.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    Sweep ’em and hope that the O’s, Rays and Angels lose some games!

  • your mom

    Less than 2 wins will be unacceptable. I’m curious to see if CC can at least out pitch Laffey.

    • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

      Given the sad state of the Jays, the three starters they’ll send to the hill and the fact that the Yankees are at home, I’d say the bar should be set at a sweep for this series and no less should be acceptable. I usually say a sweep is too much to ask, but I don’t think that’s so in this case. Oh, don’t forget the fact that the Jays are coming off losing two out of three in each of their last two series to the Red Sox and Mariners.

  • Yank The Frank

    What’s left of my stomach lining could use a few blow out games.

    • jon

      Amen to that

  • Anthony

    No reason that we can’t sweep them. Lets not get shut down by a guy with an astronomical ERA again, please.

  • The Big City of Dreams

    I hope they can get the game in tonight.

  • Bill

    Hate thinking this but in reality I think anything less than a sweep is a dissapointment. No reason they shouldn’t and if they don’t at least win 2 then they are in trouble. Other than the Rays series at the end of the year the O’s have just as easy if not easier schedule than the Yanks. Can’t afford to lose these games this week.

    • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

      Exactly right. These are the games you HAVE to win if you want to win the division.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Damn I hope they’re not swinging at the first pitch with Romero…I can just see these guys all wanting huge homers and whiffing horribly instead of just talking the walk. Swisher comes to mind first. I have no stats, just fears.

    Patience will win out tonight against both pitchers…

  • MannyGeee

    Here’s to hoping the offense comes to play. I would love to see A-Rod get his swag back and Swisher not look foolish on junk pitches. Also, Curtis neeeeeeeeeeeeeds to consistently hit. 2-homer games sandwiched in between a pair of 0-fers aint getting us deep into October, kid!

    That said, sweep the leg Johnny and hope for some help out West (aaaaaaaaaand I guess some help from The Fightin Valentines as well…. now excuse me as I go take a shower in the fetal position)

    • ROBTEN

      “I would love to see A-Rod get his swag back”

      Well, for what it’s worth, since returning A-Rod is .300/.351/.520

  • dkidd

    how is it possible for a pitcher to have a lower K rate than aaron cook?

    • forensic

      His rate isn’t lower than Cook’s, but Cook doesn’t have enough innings to be a qualified starter which was Mike’s cut-off.

      • dkidd


        thought cook had gotten more starts

  • MannyGeee

    ” but I don’t think you need me to tell you that David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Rafael Soriano could use a few innings on the sidelines in blowouts this week”

    We could reeeeeeeally use some D Lowe innings this week. The good kind, not the losing by 8 kind.

    • jjyank

      True that. I think we’re all (the team and the fans) in need of a nice blowout or 3.

  • Pat D

    Escobar has been KO’ed for this series.

  • Trish

    Per Yankees.com tonight’s game is officially postponed, to be played at 1:05 tomorrow in a split-game doubleheader.

  • Laz

    The matchups for pitchers is very favorable for the Yankees. None of these games are ones that you have are at a disadvantage from the start.