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Game 8 Preview: Yankees @ Blue Jays

Aaron Sanchez will look to further prove himself tonight against the division rival New York Yankees. He will be in tough against Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays will be up against right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees tonight, in the first game of a three game series. Pitching for the Blue Jays is 23-year old Aaron Sanchez, who is coming off a terrific first start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays. After the first week of the season, the Jays sit one game back of .500 with a 3-4 record.

Tanaka last pitched exactly one week ago against the Houston Astros. Although the Yankees lost that game 5-3, he posted a respectable line of: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB. Jose Altuve came around to score after a leadoff double in the 4th, then Carlos Correa hit a solo shot in the 6th. All in all, it was a solid first start for the Yankees right-hander, and Tanaka should be well rested for today's game in Toronto.

A five pitch mix allows Tanaka to really keep hitters guessing at the plate. While his fastball velocity continues to decline, his split-fingered fastball has great late break and generates plenty of weak contact. 

Pitch Breakdown- 2015 (Courtesy of Fangraphs)

Fastball 32.5 92
Slider 21.5 84
Cutter 11.1 89
Curveball 7.3 77
Split-Fingered FB 27.5 88

Strong plate discipline will be needed from Blue Jays hitters today, as Tanaka throws his split-fingered fastball extremely often. His slider is also a tremendous weapon, and he will mix in a cutter to keep hitters off-balance. If you do get a four-seamed fastball from Tanaka you can do serious damage, as this has been his least successful pitch over the course of his career. Although he is homer prone, his ability to limit walks and generate weak contact makes it difficult to get a rally started when he is on the mound.

Blue Jays Vs. Tanaka Last Season

Tanaka started four games against the Jays last season and boasted strong results:

13-Sep 7 0 4 7 0
15-Aug 9 1 5 8 3
09-Aug 6 2 3 5 0
06-Apr 4 4 5 6 2

As you can see, Tanaka was quite successful against the Jays last season, other than in his first start in early April. Tanaka does not possess major splits, as lefties and righties have posted similar numbers against him over his career. As a result, the Jays will not be at a huge disadvantage from having so many right-handed bats in the lineup. You can see individual numbers against Tanaka here.

Both teams did not play yesterday, so expect very available and well-rested bullpens. In addition, expect Josh Donaldson back at third base today, as he was confident he would be ready to play in the field by today's game. It will be interesting to see if Aaron Sanchez can provide the Jays with another great start, as the Yankees will be challenging him with plenty of left-handed hitters. 

Projected Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays New York Yankees
Kevin Pillar- CF Jacoby Ellsbury-CF
Josh Donaldson- 3B Brett Gardner- LF
Jose Bautista- RF Alex Rodriguez- DH
Edwin Encarnacion- DH Mark Teixeira- 1B
Troy Tulowitzki- SS Brian McCann- C
Michael Saunders- LF Carlos Beltran- RF
Justin Smoak- 1B Chase Headley-3B
Russell Martin-C Starlin Castro- 2B
Ryan Goins- 2B Didi Gregorius-SS
Aaron Sanchez- RHP Masahiro Tanaka-RHP