Jays, Yankees face off in crucial series finale

Field Level Media

September 30, 2021 at 8:08 am.

Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Robbie Ray can help his team’s wild-card hopes and his American League Cy Young Award chances Thursday night against the visiting New York Yankees.

Ray (13-6, 2.68 ERA) is considered one of the favorites to win the award as the league’s top pitcher. He will try to pitch the Blue Jays to a series win against the Yankees after Toronto leveled the three-game set with a 6-5 win Wednesday.

The result ended New York’s seven-game winning streak.

The Yankees (90-68) still occupy the first AL wild-card spot with a one-game lead over the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Baltimore Orioles 6-0 on Wednesday. The Blue Jays (88-70) are one game behind the Red Sox, and Toronto also is a half-game behind the Seattle Mariners (89-70), who beat the Oakland A’s 4-2.

Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole, also a candidate for the Cy Young Award, did not factor in the decision Wednesday. He allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings to increase his ERA to 3.23.

“I think we’re running into some really tough teams, and I was not quite sharp enough today,” Cole said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Cole said that he would be ready to pitch Sunday if the Yankees still need to clinch a wild-card berth.

“I wish I could keep pitching right now and start throwing up some zeros and make up for it,” Cole said.

Toronto won the game on Bo Bichette’s second home run of the game in the eighth inning against Clay Holmes.

“This is what we dream of doing,” Bichette said. “These are the biggest games of my life.”

The Blue Jays feel that this season can prepare them for what appears to be a bright future.

“We know what we can accomplish,” Bichette said. “If it happens this year, it happens this year. But I think what we’re going through right now … I can’t really state how beneficial it’s going to be going forward. We’re just focused on how much better we can be, either way.”

Marcus Semien hit his 44th home run of the season, a two-run blast in the first inning against Cole. He set a single-season record for major league second basemen, passing the 43 hit by Davey Johnson in 1973. Also notable for the Blue Jays is that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ended an 0-for-20 drought when he hit an RBI double in the fifth.

Ray will go into the rubber match of the series with 244 strikeouts in 188 innings.

Ray has faced the Yankees twice this season, going 0-2 with a 5.59 ERA. In four career meetings against the Yankees, he 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA.

Ray will be opposed by Corey Kluber (5-3, 3.82 ERA). The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA against the Blue Jays in three starts this season and is 2-4 with a 4.56 ERA in nine career starts against them.

Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo could not bat in the ninth inning Wednesday after being hit on the left wrist by a Tim Mayza pitch in the seventh. He was to have X-rays.

“We’ll see what we have overnight,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

The Yankees reinstated right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga (right shoulder strain) from the injured list Wednesday and optioned left-hander Andrew Heaney to their rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate. Loaisiga pitched a perfect seventh inning.

Toronto promoted right-hander Jacob Barnes on Wednesday and optioned right-hander Anthony Castro to Triple-A Buffalo. Infielder Jake Lamb cleared waivers and became a free agent.