The New York Yankees return home riding a five game winning streak. At this time last week, they were in last place in the American League East; today they are in third at 21-22, still 5.5 games out of the top spot. Their pitching has been a big reason why the Yanks have been hot. The starters are either doing just enough to win or dominating early before handing it over to the big three in the bullpen. Into Yankee Stadium for a three game set is the team that won the division last year but finds themselves in the basement in 2016: the 22-24 Toronto Blue Jays.
If you think about it, except for one eight week stretch in 2015, this has been a mediocre Blue Jays team over the last 18 months. The offense, though still potent, is not as fearsome as it used to be. The most productive member of the lineup has been left fielder Michael Saunders with eight home runs, a .322 batting average and a .388 on-base percentage. Believe it or not, it is first baseman Justin Smoak who leads the Jays in OBP at .402. So what about the big hitters in the Toronto lineup? Josh Donaldson leads the club in home runs with 11 and is fourth in the Majors with 43 runs scored but is hitting .250. Jose Bautista has ten homers and is first on the team in RBI’s with 34 but is hitting .230. However, both men are still getting on base with OBP’s of .348 and .373, respectively. It is Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki who are playing below expectations. Encarnacion has good power numbers with nine homers and 32 RBI’s but is getting on base at barely above a 30% clip. Tulo has been even worse with a .205 batting average and an OBP of .286, albeit with eight long balls.
The starting pitching has been pretty good. J.A. Happ has been a nice surprise with a record of 5-2 and a 3.43 ERA. Marcus Stroman, thought of as the Toronto ace, has mixed in good starts and bad with a 3.89 ERA in 39 1/3 innings. The Yanks will not face him the series. The best Jays’ starter is hard-luck Marco Estrada who has only one win despite owning a 2.61 ERA with opposing batters hitting .187. He will pitch on Wednesday, a day after the Yanks get to face the knuckleballing R.A. Dickey. The former Cy Young Award winner is 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts. Aaron Sanchez gets the ball in the finale, sporting a 4-1 mark and a 3.20 ERA with a team-leading 52 strikeouts.
In the bullpen, Roberto Osuna has picked up where he left off last season with nine saves and 22 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings. He comes into this series with an ERA of 1.40 and a BAA of .164. Long-time starting pitcher Gavin Floyd has transitioned to a reliever nicely with 22 strikeouts and allowing only 13 hits and four walks in 20 2/3 innings. Lefty Brett Cecil, a Toronto mainstay just landed on the disabled list with a strained triceps muscle. Drew Storen has been brutal, surrendering four home runs and 22 hits in only 15 innings pitched.
This will be the first meeting In the Bronx between the two teams in 2016 with the Yankees taking two of three in Toronto in mid-April. Another series win against the defending AL East champions would go a long way in determining whether or not this Bombers’ team is for real.
Like Subwaybaseball on Facebook and follow on Twitter @subwaybaseball