The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the better teams in baseball over the past month.
But that hasn’t stopped them from losing ground on the red-hot New York Yankees in the American League East standings.
The Yankees (47-16) carry a 10-game lead on the second-place Blue Jays (37-26) into a hotly anticipated three-game series at Rogers Centre.
Here’s a look at the teams heading into the weekend set.
Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Ross Stripling (2-1, 3.14 ERA) vs. New York LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 2.70 ERA)
Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET / 12:07 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (8-1, 1.67 ERA) vs. New York RHP Jameson Taillon (7-1, 2.93 ERA)
Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET / 10:37 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-3, 4.80 ERA) vs. New York RHP Gerrit Cole (6-1, 3.33 ERA)
LATEST ON THE BLUE JAYS
The Baltimore Orioles are the lone team in the American League East without a winning record, so Toronto’s split in this week’s four-game series at Rogers Centre has to be considered a bit of a disappointment.
The series finished with a thud – a 10-2 loss in which struggling starter Kevin Gausman didn’t make it out of the third inning.
Earlier in the series, Yusei Kikuchi, another starter trending in the wrong direction, also had a short outing in a loss.
There also are injury concerns. Shortstop Bo Bichette left Thursday’s game with a foot injury after fouling off a pitch and third baseman Matt Chapman sat out with a lingering sore wrist.
LATEST ON THE YANKEES
The Yankees won their 14th in a row at home and seventh in a row overall with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. Anthony Rizzo hit a walk-off home run to give the Yankees their eighth series sweep of the year.
The Yankees are the first team since the 2001 Seattle Mariners to win at least 47 of its first 63 games.
New York won its latest game with an emergency starter in Clarke Schmidt (one hit, three innings) after Luis Severino was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. But Severino tested negative later Thursday and is expected to accompany the team to Toronto.
Ryan Weber, a non-roster invitee, came in for Schmidt, replaced Schmidt and gave up just one run in 3.2 innings in his Yankees debut.
The Yankees have won six of nine versus Toronto this season, including a mini-sweep in New York last time out in May.
But there have been bright spots for the Blue Jays – especially the three-homer night for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in New York in April. Two of those homers came off Cole, Sunday’s starter for the Yankees.
After a double off Cole that night, the Yankees right-hander tipped his cap to Guerrero.
“Did you see his night?” Cole said. “If you had a cap, you’d tip it too.”
STARTERS VS. YANKEES
The pitching matchups, at first glance, don’t look great for Toronto. But a closer look offers reason for hope.
While Kikuchi has battled control problems recently, he gave up just three earned runs and five hits in two starts against the Yankees in May.
Manoah, whose first career start was a memorable win in the Bronx last year, has allowed only one run and four hits in two starts versus the Yankees this year. The Saturday showdown with dual citizen Taillon is the marquee matchup of the series.
Stripling wasn’t at his best in his lone start against the Yankees this year in May, but he hasn’t allowed a run in his two starts since rejoining the rotation.
BRINGER OF RAIN REPORT
Former Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson usually gets a very warm reaction from Toronto fans, but the Yankees third baseman hasn’t played here since he was suspended one game for his “Jackie” comment to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson – a remark the White Sox considered racist.
Donaldson is hitting .232/.330/.387 with five home runs and 18 RBI this season.
Expect some of the Blue Jays’ biggest crowds of the season this weekend.
A quick check of Ticketmaster on Thursday night indicated all sections for all games have either limited tickets or no tickets available.
The Blue Jays hit the road for three games against the White Sox (30-31) and then three against the Milwaukee Brewers (35-30) next week.