Written by Mike Passador, Gideon Turk, and Elie Waitzer
Something to Play for?
While the lack of furious playoff races means that few teams have consequential games on tap this weekend, there’s still a little bit of intrigue on both sides of this matchup. The Yankees enter this series three games back of the division-leading Red Sox, and while the odds of them catching up are slim, Boston does have to face the juggernaut Astros to close things out. Stranger things have happened, so perhaps New York will have a little extra urgency over these next three.
Of course, one Yankee loss or Red Sox win would lock the top of the AL East into place. The same can’t be said for the bottom of the division, with the Blue Jays and Orioles tied at 75-84 and just two games back of the Rays. For a team that has spent every day of 2017 in the AL East basement, there would certainly be some joy in leapfrogging someone before the buzzer sounds.
If the East is settled on Friday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees pump the brakes on Saturday and Sunday, preserving their most important position players and lethal bullpen arms for the Wild Card game. It would open the door for Toronto to play against a skeleton squad. And even if Toronto also chooses to sit their stars it’d at least improve their chances of taking a game or two.
Sensible draft pick considerations aside, it’d be incredibly satisfying to finish ahead of Baltimore or Tampa Bay (but especially Baltimore). Little victories, people.
It’s Finally Over
We have reached the conclusion. At long last, the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be done playing baseball in 2017 after this series in New York, bringing a merciful end to what has been a thoroughly disappointing season. Need to be reminded of some of the bad things to happen to the Blue Jays this year? How about we discuss a few, and hope that in 2018, we’ll have a lot more positives than negatives to talk about.
Things got started in almost the worst way possible, with the club beginning their season at 1-9. Nobody was having any sustainable offensive success, and the only bright spot was Kevin Pillar learning how to take a pitch. Unfortunately, that was short-lived, and Pillar quickly fell back to earth. April also saw injuries to Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez and featured the start of underwhelming campaigns from Kendrys Morales and Jose Bautista.
Sanchez never recover fully and he ended up only pitching in 36 innings this season. His lingering blister problems not only impacted his 2017 season, but they have also cast doubt on his future in baseball. One has to wonder if he will ever be able to stay healthy and pitch successfully in the major leagues, or if his blister issues will keep on recurring as they did this season and prevent him from having success at all.
Finally, one would be remiss to discuss the terribleness of 2017 without mentioning Jason Grilli. The fireballer who turned his 2016 season around and helped the Blue Jays make the postseason came into this year as a key cog in the Blue Jays bullpen. He was anything but; before he was released in June, he had a 6.97 ERA. He allowed more home runs this year with the Blue Jays than he did in 2016, with half of the innings pitched, and the Blue Jays lost in 17 of the 26 games in which he appeared. If this represents his final season in the majors…Well…Yeah…It wasn’t a pretty one.
Bird Is The Word
Before Aaron Judge and before Gary Sanchez, there was Greg Bird. The hype was mostly due to his headline-friendly last name, but a lot of it was deserved after he posted a .312 TAv in a 46 game tryout down the stretch in 2015. Then he sat out the 2016 season with a torn labrum, stumbled out of the gates this season (.107/.265/.214 in April), then hit the DL with a serious injury again.
So you’re forgiven if you thought you could forget about Greg Bird. But since he’s coming to town, you should probably know that he has hit five homers over his past nine games and has generally been crushing the ball since his return in late August. His season stats are still putrid, but he’s been one of the Yankees’ hottest bats during their dominant September run.
That fact is extra scary if you’re the Twins because the Yankees were doing just fine before Bird turned it on. If Bird can keep up his recent success, New York’s lineup could be one of the deepest in the playoffs.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports