November 28, 2023

Resurgent Blue Jays pursue sweep of Yankees


A week ago, the Toronto Blue Jays reached a low point in the midst of getting swept in a four-game home series against the Texas Rangers.

Now things are trending better for the Blue Jays, who hope to get some more clarity on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s right knee discomfort on Thursday before attempting to sweep the host New York Yankees.

Since being outscored 35-9 by Texas last week, Toronto has won five straight for the first time since winning a season-best six in a row in late April. The Blue Jays followed up a three-game home sweep of the Boston Red Sox by outscoring the Yankees 13-2 in the first two games.

After opening the series with a 7-1 win, the Blue Jays scratched Guerrero shortly before recording a 6-1 victory on Wednesday. Guerrero underwent an MRI exam shortly before Kevin Gausman struck out 10 in six scoreless innings and Bo Bichette had a pair of RBI singles for Toronto.

“Coming off the worst series of the year and then sweeping Boston and obviously coming here and winning the first two, it’s been night and day demeanor-wise, clubhouse energy,” Gausman said. “It’s just we had a really bad four days and you could really feel that.

“So to have three really good days in a row after that was huge and kind of put all that on the backburner, and it’s kind of like, ‘Listen, what we did against those teams that we’re chasing or that are chasing us, we have no say on them anymore.’ “

Toronto is 17-8 in the Bronx since the start of the 2021 season, including a four-game sweep in September 2021. The Blue Jays (85-67) enter Thursday with a one-game lead over the Rangers (84-68) and Mariners (84-68) for the second of three American League wild cards. Texas and Seattle are idle Thursday before starting a three-game, head-to-head series on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

New York (76-76) is riding a three-game losing streak. Since winning 14 of 19 games, the Yankees have scored just four runs in the past three contests. On Wednesday, they were held to one run or fewer for the 28th time, and they have struck out 26 times over the first two games of the series.

Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.81 ERA) will make his final home start of the season on Thursday as he attempts to enhance his AL Cy Young Award credentials. Cole is coming off consecutive no-decisions. He allowed two runs in five innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday after tossing seven scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 10.

“I know he’s had an awesome year and I would imagine clearly the front-runner,” New York manager Aaron Boone said of Cole’s Cy Young candidacy.

Since allowing six runs in four innings on Aug. 19 against the Boston Red Sox, Cole is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA over his past five starts. He has allowed two runs or fewer in 24 starts this year, joining Jack Chesbro (28 in 1904) and Ron Guidry (26 in 1978) as the only pitchers in team history to allow two runs or fewer in at least 24 starts during a season.

Cole is 6-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 14 career starts against Toronto. In two no-decisions against them this year on April 22 and May 17, the right-hander pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings.

Jose Berrios (11-10, 3.49 ERA) will get the ball for Toronto, attempting to match his win total from last season, when he posted a 5.23 ERA. Berrios will look to win a third straight start for the first time this year after allowing a combined two runs on 10 hits and two walks with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings against the Kansas City Royals and Boston.

Berrios is 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 10 career starts against the Yankees. He lost to New York on May 18 after giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings.

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