The AL East race is close to over. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees Wednesday night (TOR 4, NYY 0) and now hold a commanding 3 1/2-game division lead with only 10 games to play. A New York win would have cut Toronto’s lead to 1 1/2 games. The race would have been much more interesting.
Marcus Stroman led the Blue Jays to Wednesday’s win with seven shutout innings. He wasn’t even supposed to pitch this year after tearing his ACL in spring training, remember. Stroman’s rehab went exceptionally well and now he’s back on the mound. Russell Martin‘s three-run home run in the seventh inning was the final nail in the Yankees’ coffin:
At the July 31 trade deadline, the Yankees led the AL East by six games in the loss column … over the Orioles. The Blue Jays were seven back in the loss column. Toronto went all in at the trade deadline though, adding David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins. The Yankees added Dustin Ackley. That’s all.
One of the reasons Toronto made those moves was the 13 games against the Yankees they were scheduled to play in the second half, giving them a chance to make up a lot of ground in the division in a short period of time. The Blue Jays capitalized and went 9-4 in those 13 games. The AL East odds tell quite a story (via FanGraphs):
The Yankees and Blue Jays have gone in opposite directions over the last two months. New York still figures to make the postseason — even after Wednesday’s loss, they have a four-game lead over the Astros for the first wild-card spot — but it’ll almost certainly be as a wild-card team rather than AL East champs. That has to be disappointing after being six games up at the deadline.
The Blue Jays have a magic number of eight for the AL East, which they can whittle away in the final 11 days of the regular season. They close the season with six games against the Rays — three at home and three on the road — and four against the Orioles, two teams out of the wild-card race.
Wednesday’s win didn’t guarantee the Blue Jays the AL East title — we’ve seen collapses happen before — but there’s no doubt they are now in the driver’s seat. This three-game series was the Yankees’ biggest chance to get back into the race, and Toronto took care of business by winning two of three.
With the game’s best offense, a strong rotation, a deeper bullpen and an severely underrated team defense, the Blue Jays should be considered World Series favorites as much as any team in baseball right now. They handled the Yankees this week the way they’ve handled the rest of baseball since the trade deadline.
Russell Martin and Marcus Stroman led the Blue Jays to Wednesday’s win over the Yankees. (USATSI)
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