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Series Preview: Trying To Keep Some Hope Alive

If the Blue Jays are going to make an unlikely push to the wild card, they’re going to have to beat the teams ahead of them. Duh. They won’t see all of those teams again down the stretch, so beating teams like the Yankees is paramount.

Tuesday at 7:07 ET

CC Sabathia has been good for the Yankees this season as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Against the Blue Jays, though, he’s been bad. The veteran lefty has faced Toronto three times so far in 2017, owning a 7.62 ERA and .815 opponents OPS over 13 innings pitched. His two bad outings against the Jays represent two of the four times Sabathia has failed to clear five innings in a start this season. For the season, he owns a 3.81 ERA and is striking out 7.0 and walking 3.8 batters per nine innings. Far from the once-dominant pitcher he was a few years ago, but still very effective.

J.A. Happ has faced the Yankees only once this season. It was the start on July 4 in which he held New York to four hits and one run over six strong innings. Save for one bad start against the Astros back before the All-Star break, Happ has been excellent since his disabled list stint, posting quality starts in eight of 12 opportunities.

Wednesday at 7:07 ET

Cesar Valdez was a nice storyline for, like, a week, but such as you’d expect from somebody who spent seven years between big league starts, it all came crashing down. Valdez had a very good revenge start against the A’s, then followed it up by getting drilled by the Angels and Astros. He’ll be given another chance to prove he’s capable of being the depthy-est of depth arms on Wednesday against the Yankees, who hasn’t faced yet this season. Overall, Valdez owns a 7.63 ERA for the season, and, well, yeah, that’s about all you need to know.

He’ll go up against Masahiro Tanka, who is good again. Tanka had a miserable start to the season, owning an ERA of 5.47 going into the All-Star break. But since then, he’s been very, very good. In four starts since the mid-summer classic, Tanaka has seen an uptick in strikeouts and a decrease in hard contact, and has cleared six innings in each outing. That’s something he only did 10 times in his first 18 starts.

Thursday at 7:07 ET

Sonny Gray was New York’s big trade deadline splash this year. He’s made one start with the Yankees, and it didn’t go well. That wasn’t his fault, though, as the team’s defence let him down, as Gray was charged with four runs (two earned) over six innings of work against Cleveland. He faced the Jays in his final start before being freed from Oakland, and was tagged for four runs (non earned!) over six innings. For the season, Gray has a sparkling 3.41 ERA and is striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings.

Maybe having the non-waiver trade deadline behind him has gotten Marco Estrada out of whatever funk he was in between June and July? Maybe it’s a small sample size? Regardless, Estrada has tossed back-to-back excellent starts, holding both the very bad White Sox and the very good Astros to one and three runs respectively over seven innings.

Thoughts…

The Jays are somehow only five games back of Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second wild card and are seven games behind New York for the first wild card. That’s a massive uphill climb, but they play the Yankees nine more times and the Rays seven more times. A sweep (lol) of New York, who hasn’t been playing all too well the last week, would certainly bring some optimism to the club, but, bleh, it’s hard to get your hopes up at this point.