TORONTO – Remember last season when New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone told umpire Brennan Miller, PG paraphrasing here, that his guys are savages in the batter’s box?
Well, yeah, and they still are, overcoming the absences of Aaron Judge along with the just-activated Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela to rank among the most productive lineups in the American League, even with slumping soft spots Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez in the bottom third of their order.
The Toronto Blue Jays got a full demonstration of that Tuesday night when a pair of Derek Fisher miscues in right field fuelled a seven-run second inning that opened the floodgates in an ugly 20-6 bludgeoning that leapfrogged the Yankees into second in the AL East.
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Much like in last week’s 18-1 beatdown from the New York Mets, when Danny Jansen dropped a relay at home plate to propel a big rally, it was Fisher’s failure to make a routine catch on a Clint Frazier fly ball followed by his inability to snare a tougher but catchable Gardner drive that led things to unravel.
At best, Taijuan Walker could have been out of the second inning unscathed on those two balls to Fisher after Urshela’s one-out double. Even if only the Frazier fly ball had been caught, the inning would have ended on the Sanchez strikeout that followed Gardner’s drive, which was scored an RBI single.
Instead, Walker was unable to get a third out to end the frame, as Tyler Wade and DJ LeMahieu followed Sanchez with RBI singles before Luke Voit delivered a three-run homer that really opened things up. Once Aaron Hicks went deep, as well, that was it for the right-hander, who was charged with seven runs, only one earned, despite allowing six hits in 1.2 innings.
It was tough to watch and things only devolved further from there, as Shun Yamaguchi, who opened a five-run third by walking the first three batters and hitting the next two, was the first of four relievers that also got knocked around.
Things got so bad that shortstop Santiago Espinal, who pitched the ninth in the pummelling from the Mets, was back out on the mound for the second time in five days.
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Given that second place in the AL East is at stake over the final two weeks of the season, it was certainly an inauspicious start to the second of three series between the clubs, with a four-gamer next week in Buffalo remaining. With Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka starting the next two games for the Yankees, the Blue Jays certainly have their work cut out for them.
Still, the Blue Jays have a relatively firm hold on a playoff spot, as they’d really need to fall off a cliff to not, at minimum, clinch at least a wild card. Despite that, as Major League Baseball officially unveiled plans for its post-season bubble after the opening round, it’s worth wondering why a pair of games could spin out of control the way they have in such close proximity.
Fisher started for the first time since Sept. 9, when he hit a two-run homer off Deivi Garcia in a 7-2 loss. Garcia was back on the mound Tuesday, and save for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who homered in the second, singled in the fourth and doubled in the sixth, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who also homered and singled, he cruised through seven solid frames.
Fisher went 0-for-4 with an RBI this time and the Blue Jays should have an interesting decision to make in the coming days if Teoscar Hernandez, scheduled to face Matt Shoemaker in a live batting practice Wednesday, is ready for activation afterwards.
Jonathan Davis, another extra outfielder, has options remaining but offers the Blue Jays both plus baserunning and strong defence. Fisher can’t be sent down without being put through waivers first, and while his skillset offers premium upside if he ever puts his game together, at this very moment he doesn’t offer the roster enough to justify a spot over Davis.
Maintaining depth right now is crucial, so that’s one consideration, but if Fisher isn’t going to survive the winter on the 40-man roster, far from a guarantee, then carrying the best 28 guys at the moment must take priority over asset management.