BLUE JAYS SET TO FACE YANKS AS JUDGE EYES TRIPLE CROWN
2022-09-27 · 2 min read · MLB/Baseball
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
In what can only be referred to as Toronto’s personal hell, Tropicana Field is finally in the rearview mirror - at least for now.
Eking out a split in their final series against the pesky Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto enters Monday sitting in the first Wild Card spot, two games up on the aforementioned Rays and two-and-a-half up on Seattle. The Jays open a three-game series against the division-leading Yankees, followed by three against Boston and three against Baltimore. The Orioles, currently sitting at 79-73, are the last legitimate Wild Card possibility - they sit four games back of Seattle following the Mariners’ blowing an 11-2 lead over the Royals just a day ago.
If the season ended today, this is how the playoff seeding would look:
Beyond the newly-minted third Wild Card spot in each league, each first-round three-game series will have all games being played at the higher-seeded team’s stadium - no flying, just like any three-game series during the Regular Season. If Toronto finishes as the top Wild Card seed, Tampa Bay would fly across the border and play a best-of-three series all at the Rogers Centre - the same goes for Cleveland, St. Louis, and - for the time being - Atlanta. It’s a significant incentive for teams like the Jays, who would prefer to lose an arm and a leg if it meant they didn’t have to play in Tampa ever again.
Toronto’s magic number is down to four games, while New York also has the ability to clinch the division title with a series win over Toronto as the Yankees sit eight-and-a-half up on the second-place Jays. Along with having their sights set on finishing atop the AL East, Aaron Judge - he of 60 HRs - is playing for a Triple Crown award as he currently sits in first place in all three categories required - Average, HRs, and RBIs. Judge, assuming he holds off Boston’s Xander Boegarts and Minnesota’s Luis Arraez would be only the second player since 1967 to win the award - Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won it in 2012 when he posted a slash line of .330/44/139.
Along with the Triple Crown, the renowned Yankees slugger is also only one homer back of Roger Maris’ 61 HRs - the American League record. With ten games remaining, Judge is, in theory, on pace to surpass Maris’ record - although only three of the ten will be played in the Bronx. Having played 34 games in Toronto, Judge has taken Jays’ pitching deep 11 times - a stat of note to all involved over the next three days.
With the Regular Season beginning to wind down and barring a complete collapse by Toronto, decisions will have to be made within the next week or so about lining up starters for the Wild Card Series. As it stands, some combination of Gausman, Manoah, Berrios, and Stripling would start, with one of Berrios or Stripling being left out. Stripling, statistically, is certainly more reliable than Berrios - a 3.12 ERA, 1.036 WHIP, and 108 K’s over a career-high 128 ⅓ Innings Pitched (thus far) blow Berrios’ out of the water. On the flip side though, there is something to be said about Berrios’ numbers being inflated - when he’s bad, he’s BAD, and when he’s good, he’s (usually) GOOD. That said, in a possible do-or-die Game 3 scenario, do you really want to flip a coin with Berrios?
In the meantime, all eyes are on Kevin Gausman tonight as he opposes Yankees’ righty Luis Severino in one of only four games on the slate today. The first pitch is at 7:07 pm.
By: Gus Cousins