BUFFALO, N.Y. — I’m not even sure if I’d call this series a tuneup. It was more like a walkthrough and trying not to get anyone hurt. The Toronto Blue Jays played like they wanted to lock up a postseason spot and accomplished their goal by taking three of four from the New York Yankees. Granted the Yankees can still host the Wild Card series if they take care of business and get some help this weekend but they could’ve made it much easier on themselves this week. Frankly, I’m not sure if they even care which seed they get saddled with, so long as they can avoid the Tampa Bay Rays as long as possible.
This was probably the most brutal late Sept. series I’ve seen the Yankees play against the Blue Jays since 1993 and that Toronto team was stacked and on its way to a World Series repeat.
The Yankees actually held a brief lead in this one. They made it closer than the score would indicate late. Yet otherwise, it was essentially a “punt game.” After dominating the Blue Jays in the Bronx, Buffalo proved to be nightmare fuel in an 11-5 defeat.
ON THE BOARD
Facing Matt Shoemaker during the second stanza, following consecutive one-out walks to Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks, Gio Urshela delivered an RBI-single to center for the 1-0 edge.
The Yankees gave Michael King one of those Major League Baseball Steve Howe kind of last chances, on the bump. He ran into some bad luck but could only really fool the Jays bats for a once around the order. King racked up six K’s but was punished for five runs in 2.2 frames, on five hits, and one walk. After the game, he was optioned to the alternate site.
Jonathan Loaisiga wasn’t much sharper and this contest was all but done in the fourth inning.
If this was intended to be a “throwaway game,” they would’ve been better suited to allow Clarke Schmidt an opportunity to make a start.
The Yankees weren’t messing around in the second game. Even with DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit posting a combined 0-for-8, the New York lineup cranked out 15 hits in a 12-1 victory. Gerrit Cole made his tuneup outing and it was a beauty.
New York grabbed the early lead again. Facing Tanner Roark, Aaron Judge lined a one-out single to left. Hicks, the ensuing batter, drilled an RBI-triple to right. A lawn dart wild pitch by Roark enabled Hicks to scamper home for the 2-0 lead.
Cole was outstanding in his role as ace and stopper. The righty fanned seven across seven strong frames. Cole scattered five hits and the lone blip on his radar was a Cavan Biggio solo homer to center in the fourth frame. The Yankee ace capped off his 2020 regular season campaign with a 2.84 ERA and 94 K’s in 73 innings pitched across 12 starts. It’s the lowest since David Cone’s 2.82 ERA in 1997. Pretty impressive.
During the fifth frame, Judge notched an RBI-single, Hicks a two-run single, and Torres an RBI-single. In the eighth inning Brett Gardner picked up an RBI-single. Kyle Higashioka broke the trend with an overturned home run to settle for a two-run double. Jumping to the ninth, Torres and Urshela collected RBI singles as well.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YA, YOU’RE NOT ON THE LIST PAL!
There was a weird moment before the start of the eighth inning. Lefty reliever Tyler Lyons was added to the roster prior to the game but apparently not to the lineup card. I did not have that one on my 2020 bingo card. Hence, after all of the confusion, Zack Britton had to hurry up and warm up and pitch, working a scoreless frame. Adam Ottavino worked a scoreless ninth inning with two K’s.
This one was done before it started. It was a sloppy display on the field and the Yankees were crushed 14-1.
If this was Masahiro Tanaka’s final regular-season start as a Yankee, it will have been one to forget. Not that he got much help from his defense either, making four errors on the evening.
During the first frame, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled home a run and Toronto doubled the lead as Gary Sanchez attempted to pick off Teoscar Hernandez at first base with two outs for some reason.
While the Yankees benefitted from a Blue Jays botch, a Danny Jansen passed ball in the second stanza to plate Voit, Toronto, and Guerrero Jr. were back for more in the third inning.
After Randal Grichuk reached on a Torres throwing error, Guerrero Jr. plated him with a double to left. In the fourth frame, Jansen homered to left. Following a Biggio single and a fielding error by Voit on a pickoff attempt, Bo Bichette walked and Hernandez grounded into a force out before Grichuk singled home Biggio. That was the final inning for Tanaka.
The New York lineup went 1-for-7 with RISP. With the bases loaded and zero outs, the Yankees made A.J. Cole look like Gerrit Cole in the fifth frame. Giancarlo Stanton struck out, Voit popped out to second base, Torres flew out to right field. Brutal.
WHITE FLAG TIME
Do the high-leverage relievers not need work to remain ready? Luis Cessa, who had been solid in his past 12.2 frames, yielded four runs in 1.1 innings. Lyons, who should’ve been left off the lineup card again, allowed four runs in 1.2 frames. Erik Kratz got into the act again and yielded a solo homer to Jansen. It’s not cute anymore.
It wasn’t an outright blowout but the Yankees 4-1 defeat felt about as helpless. The offense went 1-for-7 with RISP. Jordan Montgomery was somewhat of a tease. Buffalo err Toronto’s victory means two New York teams have qualified for the postseason and none of them are the New York Mets.
MONTGOMERY FLEA MARKET
Montgomery posted eight K’s in his 5.1 frames, scattered six hits, and allowed three runs. He at least kept the Yankee offense within striking distance.
In the second stanza, Guerrero Jr. took Montgomery yard to left-center for the 1-0 edge. The Blue Jays doubled their lead in the third inning as Biggio and Bichette traded places with consecutive two-out doubles.
After fanning Hernandez and yielding a single to Grichuk, Montgomery was lifted in the sixth for Adam Ottavino, who remains abysmal. Ottavino allowed a single to Guerrero Jr., fanned Lourdes Gurriel Jr. but then yielded an RBI-double to Alejandro Kirk.
NOT MUCH SUPPORT
Prior to that bottom half of the sixth, the Yankees had gotten somewhat of a rally going with two consecutive singles by Voit and Hicks against Hyun Jin Ryu. Yet, Stanton struck out, Torres flew out and Urshela grounded out.
Urshela would get New York on the board in the eighth inning on an infield single to second to plate Hicks. Frazier followed with a walk to load the bases.
With Rafael Dolis replacing Anthony Bass, Sanchez pinch hit for Higashioka. Sanchez drilled a ball to the track for the third out to end the threat. Sanchez has 16 batted balls hit 100+ mph this season for outs, which is an interesting stat except they’re all still outs.
At 32-25, the Yankees travel back to the Bronx to host the Miami Marlins for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium beginning Friday evening. Their final regular-season series of the season.
Pitching probables: Sandy Alcantara vs. J.A. Happ, Trevor Rogers vs. Deivi Garcia, Jose Urena vs. TBD (please, please, please, oh please be Clarke Schmidt?!).