Series Preview: New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays (5/30-6/1)

After winning two of three in Tampa Bay, the Yankees head north of the border to take on the Toronto Blue Jays for a three game series. Last week, the Yankees dropped two of three to the Blue Jays in the Bronx. Therefore, this series would make for some sweet redemption. Currently, the Yankees are 24-25, good enough for fourth place in the AL East (it's better than last, right)? After defeating the Blue Jays 6-0 last Tuesday, the Yankees finally reached the .500 mark for the first time since early April. As they take on the third place Blue Jays, who enter the series at 26-26, the Yankees hope to once again get back to that magical .500, instead this time it would be nice to surpass that elusive winning percentage. The Yankees have certainly displayed some positives as of late, however it's imperative they continue the things they've been doing well, while contemporaneously rectifying some of weakness they've displayed before we can truly say they've put their dismal start behind them.




Three keys to success:

1. No sloppy mistakes in the field: This should be obvious, but since Didi Gregorius' boneheaded error cost the Yankees a game last week, it's worth mentioning. The Yankees have been fairly good defensively this season, however Gregorius has a tendency for making silly mistakes despite his impressive defensive abilities. Due to the state of the Yankees offense, the costliness of such errors is only amplified. Having a consistent defense is key to being successful. This relationship is clearly causal in relationship and doesn't require further explanation.

2. Consistent offensive production: Let me preface this by acknowledging that Carlos Beltran and Starlin Castro are exempt from the criticisms that will follow. For most of the season, it's been excruciatingly painful to watch the Yankees offense. At times, they've clicked and performed up to their full capabilities, but at other moments they've been putrid. This team needs to learn how to manufacture runs. Although we've seen some positive signs this May, it has not been on a consistent basis. If the Yankees want to make any significant run this season, this problem will have to be rectified. Since A-Rod and Mark Teixeira are lost at the plate, other players, such as Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Didi Gregorius must hold down the fort until the two previously mentioned players can turn it around.

3. Get the ball to (no run) DMC: This is self-explanatory, but I'll continue to include it in every series preview I write. Aroldis Chapman's return appears to have revitalized the Yankees (FOR MORE READ HERE). As long as the Yankees can bring a lead into the seventh inning they have a significant chance of winning that game. I know these three can't be used everyday, however using them as much as possible will ensure more victories. It's quite a simple concept to understand.

Game 1 (5/30): Ivan Nova (3-2, 3.65 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (2-2, 2.76 ERA).

When these two faced off last Wednesday, the Yankees suffered an 8-4 defeat. Nova didn't pitch too poorly, however giving up four earned runs in almost seven innings of work was less than satisfactory in this case. Estrada, on the other hand, pitched very well, silencing the Yankees' bats for most of the night. For the most part, Nova did his job by keeping the Yankees in the game. The bullpen, and by bullpen I mean Chasen Shreve, lost this game. As long as Nova continues to pitch well, and the Yankees offense can perform in a relatively competent manner I don't foresee a victory in this game being anywhere near out of the realm of possibility. That being said, the Yankees have struggled against Estrada so I'd say it's more likely than not they'll lose this game.

Game 2 (5/31):  CC Sabathia (3-3, 2.83 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (6-2, 3.20 ERA).

This game will also feature a rematch from last week's series as the Yankees hope for a different result this time around. Sabathia continued his resurgence, as he limited the the Blue Jays to two unearned runs over seven innings. Unfortunately, a costly error from Didi Gregorius, in conjunction with a dormant Yankees offense, contributed to a 3-1 defeat. It's worth noting that Happ was on top of his game as well. As one of Sabathia's biggest critics, I must say that I'm very impressed with his performance this season. I hope to see him continue his recent dominance, and earn a victory in this one. Isn't it nice to once again have a degree of faith in CC Sabathia? That being said, this game is a toss up. I expect Sabathia to perform, however I'm not so sure about the Yankees offense in this regard.

Game 3: (6/1): Masahiro Tanaka (3-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.29).

Masahiro Tanaka has been tremendous this season. I've often offered as much criticism in his direction as I have in Sabathia's, however his performance has forced me to retract my denunciations, for now. If Tanaka continues his dominance, and the offense can spot him at least three runs there's no reason to think the Yankees can't win this game. Conversely, Sanchez has also had a great year. I expect this game to evolve into a pitchers duel. Hopefully the Yankees can get six or seven strong innings from Tanaka, and turn over a lead to the Betances, Miller, and Chapman. I'll go out on a whim here and say the Yankees will emerge victorious in this one.

Conclusion: 

Being the inconsistent team that they are, it's extremely difficult to predict the outcome of Yankees games. Just when you think they're dead, the Yankees will gain momentum and start performing well. Simultaneously, as soon as you begin to set your hopes too high, they'll immediately come back down to Earth. I can see the Yankees either winning two of three, or losing two of three. For the sake of conjecture, I'll argue that the Yankees will lose the first game of the series, but win the third. The second game, in my opinion, will be key. Once again, the Yankees are close to reaching .500, however this time, should they get there of course, they must run with it. By the time the Yankees leave Toronto, I hope they are either at .500, or a game above it. Once they get there, they can not relinquish it. In earlier articles I've stated that, in an ideal world, I'd like to see this team at .500 by the end of May. They've certainly come close to this goal, however actually reaching it would be quite comforting. Nonetheless, the Blue Jays are no walk in the park and the Yankees will more than likely have their hands full this week.

Article by Steven Eareckson

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