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Game #56 Preview: Tanaka vs Ray

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Yankees (32-23) vs Blue Jays (28-27)

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays continue their series against the Yankees this evening, playing game 3 of 4 in their second last series at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. Tonight’s game gets under way at 6:37 EDT.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Robbie Ray gets the start, seemingly having bumped himself up the depth chart and into the rotation for this last cycle through the rotation. Since coming to the Blue Jays, Ray hasn’t looked the greatest, but he at least has been an improvement on what he was in Arizona. Through 16.2 innings in Toronto, Ray has allowed 12 runs (11 earned) on 19 hits and 10 walks, striking out 20 while allowing 4 home runs. That may seem terrible, and indeed it is bad, but that does highlight how bad he was with the Diamondbacks, as he allowed even more walks and home runs per 9 innings. But the stuff to dominate is there, he just hasn’t put it to great use yet.

Yankees’ Starter

Masahiro Tanaka looks to cap his renaissance season, currently sitting with a 3-2 record and a 3.27 ERA, his lowest mark in 5 years. He has done a fantastic job this season preventing walks, allowing them at a rate of just 1.02 per 9 innings, much greater than his already great career average of 1.76. He’s not generating strikeouts like he used to, or preventing home runs, but thanks to the lack of walks, he has been able to keep the runs under control.

Tanaka faced the Jays last week at Yankee Stadium, and put up a pretty solid start. He made it through 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and no walks, striking out 5 and allowing a pair of home runs. Those home runs came off the bat of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who had a great 4-4 day that day, but is just 4-24 since then.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Travis Shaw was a late scratch from last night’s game as he was dealing with back spasms. That was the third straight game against a righty that he wasn’t in the starting lineup, and appears to have lost his grip on a starting spot.

Jonathan Villar seems to have also lost his grip on a starting lineup spot, still getting the occasional start, but more realistically lining up to be a pretty strong bench piece for the playoffs.

Alejandro Kirk seems to have taken over the starting catcher role, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out there again today, with Danny Jansen for sure catching Hyun-Jin Ryu tomorrow.

Yankees’ Starter

Giancaro Stanton took his turn out of the lineup yesterday, and today may be Aaron Judge’s turn to sit out. I would imagine Gleyber Torres is going to get an off day either today or tomorrow as well.

Kyle Higashioka collected his first double of the season yesterday, and continued his demolition of the Blue Jays this season. But Gary Sanchez has caught Tanaka his last 4 times through the rotation, and 6 of his 9 starts this season, so I would expect to see Sanchez behind the plate again.

DJ LeMahieu went hitless last night, dropping his batting average down to .356. He still holds the Major League lead, but Tim Anderson is right behind him at .353.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Marcell Ozuna went 4-5 with a pair of home runs and a double, driving in 5 runs to pick up the Monster Bat award. He helped his Braves beat up on the Marlins 11-1, clinching the National League East in the process.

Yadiel Hernandez started just one of the two games of the Nationals-Phillies double header, but he was instrumental in the win in the second one, launching a 1-out, 2-run game winning home run. That hit alone was worth .706 WPA, and Hernandez takes home the WPA King trophy with a .760 mark as the Nats swept the double header 8-7 and 5-1.

Steven Brault threw 7 shutout innings on just 2 hits, although he did walk 3 and bean 2 batters. But he still made it through 7 shutout innings, striking out 6, and that’s good enough to win the Pitcher of the Day award. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t good enough to earn the win in the game, but his Pirates did still take down the Cubs 3-2.

Standings Watch

Current seed: 8th (unchanged from yesterday)
Games back of the Yankees for 2nd in East: 4 (+1 from yesterday)
Games back of Cleveland for 7th seed: 3 (+1 from yesterday)
Games up on 9th: 3.5 (-0.5 from yesterday)
Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot: 2 (-1 from yesterday)

Find the Link

Find the link between Kyle Higashioka and Eric Thames.