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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Limping Into The Bronx

The Blue Jays are heading into New York losers of five of their last six games. Last week was rough, but maybe they can channel their inner 2015 Blue Jays and have a good time in the Bronx? Maybe? Please?

Monday at 7:07 ET

Usually you get worried when you see Masahiro Tanaka’s name on the schedule. That hasn’t been the case this season. Tanaka has been lit up in 2017, owning a career-worst 5.56 earned run average. His walks are up, his hard contact rates are up, and he’s allowing more homers than ever before. Tanaka is always walking the tightrope with arm injuries, and as a result, his pitches don’t seem to have the same movement and break on them than they did when he was dominant. His fastball and sinker have been tagged this season at a higher rate than ever before, which has been a key reason for Tanaka’s struggles this season.

Marcus Stroman has consistently been the Blue Jays’ best starter this season. He had a nearly two-month long stretch in which he had eight quality starts in a row. That was snapped in Texas a couple weeks ago, but Stroman rebounded his last time out with a dominant showing against the Orioles. Stroman’s only outing at Yankees Stadium came back in early May. That was the game that he only lasted three innings before being pulled with an arm injury. A month later, Stroman held the Yankees to two earned runs over six innings at Rogers Centre.

Tuesday at 1:07 ET

CC Sabathia has really found a groove this season with a pitch-to-contact style. Back when he was a perennial Cy Young candidate, Sabathia would overpower hitters with his mid-90s fastball and racked up high strikeout totals. Now, due to his declined velocity, Sabathia has become a pitcher rather than a thrower. He mixes a cutter, changeup, sinker, and slider combination and induces a lot of soft contact on the ground. His strikeout totals are down, obviously, but his 3.46 ERA is Sabathia’s best in half a decade. He faced the Jays twice this season. In early May, he dominated them over six-and-one-third, but in early June, the Jays tagged him for six runs in four innings.

J.A. Happ has been lights out since coming off the disabled list. He had one shaky start in Oakland, but after that, Happ has made four starts, has made it into the sixth inning in all of them, and hasn’t once allowed more than three earned runs. He hasn’t faced the Yankees yet this season, but Happ was excellent in all five outings against New York in 2016.

Wednesday at 1:07 ET

Michael Pineda has been a mixed bag recently. His last six outings have gone up and down, as Pineda will have a good start but then gets hosed his next time out. He allowed five runs in five innings to the Jays in early June, shut the Red Sox down over six innings, got hammered by the Angels, dominated them, got hammered by Texas, then was good against Houston. See what I’m getting at? If the pattern holds, Pineda will have a rough time with Toronto on Wednesday because he’s coming off of a good start. Hopefully it’s actually that simple.

What the hell has happened to Marco Estrada? Last time out, Estrada walked a career-high seven batters. After a rough June, he now owns an ERA of 4.86, which is shocking, because Estrada was starting to really find his groove in late May. He’s traditionally been good against the Yankees, and after two seasons of excellent, Estrada has earned the benefit of the doubt to pull it back together.

Thoughts…

I think it’s fair to say that we can turn our attention away from the division and focus instead on the Wild Card race at this point. The Jays have been terrible this month, but still only sit 4.5 games out the second Wild Card. Obviously there are a lot of teams to jump over, so winning games against teams like New York is critical. They’ve been good-not-great this month as their offence has cooled off since lighting the world on fire over April and May. This series features some winnable pitching matchups, though, if the bats remain stagnant like they did against the Orioles and Sox, there really isn’t actually any favourable matchups.