Blue Jays riding high entering big series in New York

Sports

Toronto Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits a single to right field in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Toronto on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press via AP)

Touchdown Friday

More Touchdown Friday

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays look like they could be contenders for a while in the American League.

Whether they can make the playoffs this year remains to be seen — and this next series may go a long way toward determining that.

Guerrero had three hits in Sunday’s 8-0 win over Oakland, the fourth victory in a row for Toronto. The Blue Jays are four games behind Boston for the second wild card in the American League — and 4 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for the first wild card. Toronto begins a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

No matter how that turns out, the future looks bright for Canada’s lone major league team. Guerrero is 22 and very much living up to expectations, and 23-year-old Bo Bichette is having a fine season at shortstop. Teoscar Hernández was an All-Star this year and is 28.

Toronto has shown a willingness to spend. The Blue Jays signed George Springer to a $150 million, six-year deal last offseason. But the big question now might be whether Toronto can keep second baseman Marcus Semien and left-hander Robbie Ray, who have had terrific seasons on one-year contracts.

Those are concerns for the future, though. The Blue Jays still have hope this year. Their run differential of plus-128 is better than the Yankees (plus-51) and Red Sox (plus-58) combined. Now they’ll have a chance to make up ground against New York head to head.

SLAMS

Daniel Vogelbach’s pinch-hit grand slam in the bottom of the ninth gave Milwaukee a 6-5 victory over St. Louis on Sunday.

In the day’s other all-NL Central matchup, the Cubs and Pirates combined for three grand slams, tying a major league record. Bryan Reynolds hit one for Pittsburgh, and Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel hit them for Chicago. The Cubs won 11-8.

TRIVIA TIME

As promising as Toronto’s roster is, don’t underestimate the difficulty of overcoming the Yankees and Red Sox. Right now, Tampa Bay leads the AL East, but if the Blue Jays were to rally to a second-place finish behind the Rays, that would be quite an event.

It’s been a while since both New York and Boston finished lower than second place in the AL East. Name the year.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Cleveland’s Amed Rosario went 5 for 5 with two homers — including one that stayed inside the park — and five RBIs in a 7-2 win over Kansas City on Tuesday night.

Rosario is hitting .287 with 10 homers and 12 stolen bases in his first season in Cleveland after being acquired in the deal that sent Francisco Lindor to the Mets.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

Semien’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth gave Toronto an 11-10 victory over Oakland on Friday. The Blue Jays trailed 8-2 in the eighth inning, at which point Baseball Savant gave them only a 0.5% chance of winning. Loudes Gurriel Jr. tied the game with a grand slam in the eighth, and after Oakland scored twice in the ninth — pushing its win probability back over 90% — Toronto rallied again.

HIGHLIGHT

Pittsburgh’s Ben Gamel made a diving catch in left field against the Cubs on Sunday that kicked up quite a bit of dust when he landed on the warning track. That play came on a line drive by Willson Contreras — and Gamel also made a diving catch on the grass in the first inning of that game, and a jumping catch in front of the ivy in the third.

TRIVIA ANSWER

The last time the AL East’s top two did not include the Yankees and Red Sox was in 1992, before realignment. Toronto won the division that year, and the Milwaukee Brewers finished second.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.twitter.com/noahtrister

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