The New York Yankees scythed their magic number to two on the back of eight homers, taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays. Though they dropped the middle game, power displays charged the Yankees to wins in games one and three. The Yankees head home with a two-game lead over the Red Sox and Mariners for the first Wild Card spot. Let’s take a look at how the series played out:
Stanton Sizzles in Yankees’ Seventh Straight Win
If the sun is the hottest entity in our solar system, Giancarlo Stanton must be a close second. His two-out, seventh-inning, three-run home run propelled the Yankees to a 7-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday evening. The win, coupled with Boston’s loss in Baltimore, chopped the Yankees’ playoff magic number down to three. Their winning ways have the Yankees in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card showdown at the Stadium next Tuesday.
Incidentally, the big win did not come without casualties. Jameson Taillon left in the third after aggravating his ankle injury, allowing a run in 2.1 innings. However, Michael King took his place and bridged the gap, also allowing a run in 2.2 innings. King earned the win as he passed the torch to the rolling Yankees bullpen. While Clay Holmes struggled with command through two walks and wild pitches, his clean inning set the table for Chad Green, Luis Severino, and Wandy Peralta to close out the win. Over the seven-game win streak, the bullpen combined for an astonishing 0.60 ERA over 30 innings of work.
Though Stanton earned the headlines, Aaron Judge continued his stupendous season at the plate, homering for the 37th time this season and reaching base four times. He also added a sacrifice fly in the fifth following Anthony Rizzo‘s RBI single. Gio Urshela capped the Yankees’ scoring with a solo shot of his own in the ninth.
Bichette’s Blasts Break Yankees’ Streak
A pair of solo homers by Bo Bichette brought the Blue Jays a pivotal 6-5 win on Wednesday. Toronto got to Gerrit Cole early with a simple game-plan: attack the fastball. George Springer lined Cole’s first-pitch fastball off the wall in left before Marcus Semien belted one over the same wall for a 2-0 lead. The pattern continued the next two innings. Springer singled in a third run in the second, with Bichette cranking his first solo shot off another fastball up in the third. Overall, the Yankees’ ace gave up seven extra-base hits along with his five earned runs over six innings.
However, the Yankees’ offense did everything they could to claw back against José Berríos. Three straight two-out hits by Gleyber Torres, Urshela, and Brett Gardner cut the lead to two in the fifth before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. restored the three-run cushion with an RBI double. Judge sliced another sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 5-3. Then an eventful seventh saw both Joey Gallo and Luke Voit get injured before Kyle Higashioka stroked a two-run, game-tying single to left.
Jonathan Loaisiga made his hotly anticipated return, throwing a 1-2-3 seventh. His crucial return to the bullpen came before Holmes, one of the Yankees’ most consistent relievers, allowed Bichette’s winning solo homer in the eighth. The homer was only the second XBH allowed by Holmes in his 27 innings as a Yankee.
Yanks Chase Robbie Ray in Series Finale
Twenty-four hours after the Yankees ace gave up five runs, Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray allowed five himself in the Yankees 6-2 win on Thursday night. Judge started the show with a 455ft. bomb into the restaurant in center. But Ray settled down over the next four, allowing only two baserunners via walks.
Meanwhile, Corey Kluber toiled through the relentless Blue Jays lineup. He got Semien to ground into a double-play to evade a leadoff single in the first. But after yielding the lead through an RBI double, Judge picked Kluber up with an excellent diving catch to end the second. The third turn through the top of the Jays order then proved critical for Kluber. Urshela dropped a humpback liner, allowing Springer to reach but nearly turned another DP on Semien. However, a clearly missed call at first was changed upon review, extending the inning for Guerrero Jr. to launch a ball just off the top of the centerfield wall to plate Springer and give the Jays the lead.
Ray then stared down the Yankees lineup for their pivotal third turn through the order. After DJ LeMahieu grounded out, Rizzo provided his newest signature Yankees moment, crushing a 42° launch-angle moonshot over the wall in right to tie the game. Judge then stepped to the plate to homer on an identical fastball to give the Yankees the lead. They never looked back, thanks in part to Stanton’s walk and Torres’ back-breaking two-run homer to make it 5-2 Yankees. King earned the win in relief of Kluber, his second win in the series. Severino, Green, and Aroldis Chapman combined to close out the win, with Gardner adding his 10th homer of the year in the top of the ninth to ice the series victory.
Injury Notes and Weekend Ahead
While Loaisiga made a much-needed comeback, the Yankees may have lost two key players for the final weekend and beyond. Taillon left his start in the third inning on Tuesday, but his removal was potentially precautionary. YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits reported Taillon threw from flat ground before Thursday’s finale, placing him on track to contribute in a potential playoff run.
Injury scares happened mere batters apart in the seventh on Wednesday. Gallo got plunked on his left forearm and Voit unnecessarily ran to first on wild strike three. While Gallo avoided serious injury, Voit landed on the 10-day IL with left-knee inflammation. Finally, LeMahieu left Thursday’s game early with the same hip discomfort that has dogged him all month.
The Yankees will now face the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx to close out the regular season. Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jordan Montgomery will toe the rubber in games one and two, while Aaron Boone is yet to name a starter for the finale. Cole has made himself available on three days’ rest if needed but Boone would rather have his ace in line for a Wild Card showdown. Nevertheless, the Yankees hope to exact a bit of revenge on their rivals to lock down home-field advantage for Tuesday.