The Toronto Blue Jays came into last night’s game with a record of 41-30. That record was good enough for first place in one of baseball’s best divisions. When was the last time the Blue Jays were in this position after 70 games?
The Yankees looking up at the Jays from second place have had an up and down season thus far. A team ravaged with injuries to key players, the Yankees have held their own with replacement starters Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, and Chase Whitley filling in. With all the injuries and question marks with some of the aging players on the Yankees’ roster, do they have enough to compete with a team like the Blue Jays?
In New York, the fans are used to watching the best offense in baseball. However, this year that title belongs to the Blue Jays, as they have hit the most home runs (94) and are third in runs scored (336). Lately though, the Toronto lineup has been slowing down and over their past 11 games, they have had eight games where they have scored three runs or less, while being shut out three times. If the Blue Jay lineup is slowing down, it will certainly give the Yankees a shot at coming right back to the top.
Offense isn’t everything for Toronto, as they also have one of the best rotations in the league. They currently lead the AL in wins with 33 and have a June ERA of 3.00. Mark Buehrle has been spectacular leading the way for them with a 10-3 record and 2.28 ERA, but how long does that last? I know he has been a good pitcher for most of his career, but improving at age 35 is somewhat unexpected.
All this being said, the Toronto Blue Jays are an extremely talented team. Their offense has the ability to go off any night and they can almost expect a quality start from each pitcher. When Toronto had their big off-season last year, this is what people expected; a very good team to be at the top of the division. However, in a series to really prove themselves against the long time division favorite, the Blue Jays were not the best team on the field. Masahiro Tanaka showed why he is the best pitcher in baseball again, and the veteran Yankee lineup took care of a young pitcher with a very promising future, Marcus Stroman.
This was a game the Yankees needed. They had their ace, at home, against the division leader and did not let them walk in and get comfortable. Sure, Jose Reyes hit one out on the first pitch, but that was pretty much it. Are the Yankees now the best team? No, but they showed they can be.
With Tanaka on the mound, yes they are the best team in the East; few will argue that. The real question lies in what kind of team the Yankees are with the back end of the rotation on the mound? So far this year, it hasn’t always been pretty (except with Whitley). Was last night the defining moment of the season? Absolutely not. The Yankees threw their ace and the Blue Jays didn’t. Today we’ll get a look at Toronto’s ace with Buehrle, while the Yankees will not have the ability to trot Tanaka back out there (Would you be surprised if he said he could?), but rather their young right-hander Chase Whitley.
This series is still in the middle of June, but let’s see how the Blue Jays bounce back. Will they come out and show the rest of the league that they are still the best, or will they let the Yankees right back into the race as the team to beat?