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Game #159 Preview: Kluber vs Ray

Yankees (90-68) vs Blue Jays (88-70)

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays wrap up their massive series with the Yankees today, needing to win the game and take the series to keep their postseason aspirations alive. The game is once again set to get underway at 7:07 ET this evening.

A win would put the Jays 1 game back of the Yankees for the top Wild Card spot, and if the Red Sox also lose, the Jays would be in a three-way tie for the final Wild Card spot with Boston and Seattle. A loss today makes the Jays a lot more reliant on other teams this weekend.

Blue Jays’ Starter

For a “need to win” game, the Blue Jays are sending out the right pitcher, as Cy Young award front runner Robbie Ray will head to the mound for presumably his last regular season start of 2021. Ray enters play today leading the AL in ERA (2.68), strikeouts (244), bWAR (7.0), WHIP (1.037), and comes in second in innings pitched (188.0), just 4 behind yesterday’s Jays’ starter José Berríos.

For Ray, this will surprisingly be just his third start of the year against the Yankees, with both coming prior to the start of June when Ray really took off. In those two starts, Ray combined to throw 9.2 innings, allowing 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits and 5 walks, striking out just 8. He took the loss in both of those outings. But it’s also pretty clear the second game of those became the launching point for his phenomenal season - since that start, Ray is 11-4 with a 2.25 ERA over 22 starts.

Yankees’ Starter

The Yankees will send out Corey Kluber, making his 16th start of the season. After pitching in just 8 games the last two seasons, Kluber ended up missing over three months this year with a strained rotator cuff. He’s back and healthy now though, returning to the rotation a month ago. Things haven’t gone great since his return, as through 5 start and 22.0 innings, he has a 5.73 ERA. Mixed in with 4 not so great outings is one really good one against Cleveland, where he went 6.0 shutout innings, but he has otherwise gotten hit hard and frequently, walked more than normal, and general leaves the Yankees wondering what they’re going to do with a potential playoff rotation.

Kluber made three early season starts against the Jays, with the first two coming while he was still ramping up his workload, and the final coming the day he injured his rotator cuff. As a result, he has just 11.0 innings thrown against the Jays, in which he allowed 7 runs (6 earned) on 12 hits and 8 walks, striking out 14. The Jays hit 4 home runs off him in that span as well, from Semien, Kirk, Bichette and Guerrero.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

That quartet will all once again feature prominently in today’s lineup too. Semien, Bichette and Guerrero have been fixtures all year, missing a combined 4 games. They’re also all now part of the 100run-100rbi club, and I’m really curious (and don’t know how to find) how many times a trio of teammates have done that.

Kirk will also be catching today, as he is Robbie Ray’s preferred catcher. I’m not usually one who likes to see pitchers have preferred catchers, but when the best pitcher has a preferred catcher who is also the best hitting catcher, it works out.

At some point in this series, I was anticipating Cavan Biggio getting a start. It really doesn’t seem like it’ll be at 3B, as Santiago Espinal has entrenched himself there for the rest of the season with great defense and a solid bat. So maybe Biggio starts in the outfield, but that’s not the most ideal. I’d just leave Dickerson out there.

Yankees’ Lineup

The bumps and bruises are stacking up for them this series. Joey Gallo left yesterday’s game, being pinch hit for in the at bat following a pretty nasty bean ball. Luke Voit pinch hit for him, and he appeared injured after running down the first base line.

If those two are out today, depending on if they make a roster move, the Yankees could have Rougned Odor in the lineup. They might also just decide to move Stanton to the outfield, have Sánchez DH, and keep Higashioka behind the plate. The latter option is what I’d do, so hopefully we see Odor in the lineup against Ray.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Bo Bichette, with his pair of home runs plus a double, is the Monster Bat award winner. I think we’ll all remember that 6-5 win over the Yankees for quite a while.

Corey Seager was the final nail in the coffin in last night’s game against the Padres. His home run was the fourth and final one in the 8th inning, turning a 9-6 Padres lead into an 11-9 Dodgers’ lead. That was the final score as well, and Seager gets the WPA King award with a .406 WPA.

Alex Wood threw 6 shutout innings, barely eeking out the Pitcher of the Day award over some pretty stiff competition. He gets the nod here though, as he allowed just 3 hits, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out 6. He didn’t get the win in the game though, as it took the Giants a little bit longer to get a run on the board and beat the Diamondbacks 1-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Kyle Higashioka and David Cone.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant