Yankees vs. Blue Jays: Four takeaways as New York moves back into second place with blowout win

Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays opened a three-game series that will help determine second place in the AL East. The second place team in each division gets an automatic postseason berth. The third place finisher is left to fight for one of the two wild-card spots.

The Yankees opened the series with a bang, hitting six home runs en route to a 20-6 blowout win (box score). It was the first time New York scored 20 runs since Aug. 2015 and the first time Toronto allowed 20 runs since Sept. 2000. DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit went a combined 7 for 11 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

“We’re back to being the Bronx Bombers,” Voit told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, following Tuesday’s win. “I don’t think people want to play us in the playoffs.”

Tuesday’s game also marked Giancarlo Stanton’s and Gio Urshela’s return to the lineup. Stanton had been out since Aug. 8 with a hamstring injury. He went 0 for 4 with a walk on Tuesday. Urshela spent the minimum 10 days on the injured list with a bone spur in his throwing elbow. He went 3 for 4 with two doubles in the series opener against Toronto.

Here are four takeaways from New York’s blowout win over the Blue Jays.

Voit took over the MLB home run lead

Going into Tuesday’s game, Voit was tied with Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz for the MLB lead with 16 home runs. He now stands alone atop the leaderboard with 18 homers. Voit hit a three-run home run against Taijuan Walker in the seven-run second inning Tuesday night and a solo home run against Ken Giles in the sixth inning.

Voit is now hitting .280/.343/.634 on the season and only Jose Abreu (48), Freddie Freeman (44), and Marcell Ozuna (43) have more than his 42 RBI. Because he’s avoided the injured list, Voit has been New York’s most consistent and most reliable hitter this season, and he’ll get some down-ballot MVP votes when the time comes.

As for Walker, he was charged with seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, but only one run was earned because there was some defensive funny business behind him. He held the Yankees scoreless across four innings last week. Seeing Walker twice in quick succession seemed to help New York’s hitters.

Garcia was strong again

MLB announced the postseason schedule earlier Tuesday and there’s a chance rookie righty Deivi Garcia will slot in as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter behind Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka come October. The 21-year-old made his fourth MLB start Tuesday night and it was his worst, though he was still pretty good, holding the Blue Jays to three runs in seven innings.

“I like when the offense goes out there and puts on that kind of a show,” Garcia told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, following the game. “For me, it was about staying calm and in a rhythm while I pitched.”  

Garcia, who held Toronto to two runs in seven innings last week, owns a 3.28 ERA with 24 strikeouts and four walks in 24 2/3 innings in his four starts. Our R.J. Anderson ranked him as the best prospect in New York’s system prior to the season, noting he has “an arsenal full of average or better offerings.” Garcia has given the rotation a much-needed shot in the arm.

Barring injury, Cole and Tanaka will certainly start Games 1 and 2 of the Wild Card Series. Garcia is up against lefties J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery for a potential Game 3 start. The Yankees don’t have to make the decision yet, but Garcia has certainly forced his way into consideration. He’s been very good very quickly.

Fisher had a very bad night

Rough, rough night for Derek Fisher in right field. The Blue Jays outfielder misplayed no fewer than four balls defensively, including letting a ball clank off his glove to open the floodgates in the seven-run second inning. That led to a bunch of unearned runs and spared Walker’s ERA. Fisher let another catchable ball drop in later in the inning as well.

“It was a catchable ball and he dropped it,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters, including Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, when asked about Fisher’s second inning drop. “I don’t get on people for making physical errors … Now mental errors are a different story, but the ones today were physical.”

Fisher went 0 for 4 with a walk Tuesday and is hitting a respectable .226/.359/.452 overall, though his defense has been really bad. He went into Tuesday’s game with minus-3 Defensive Runs Saved in only 82 innings. It’s not a one-year sample either. Fisher hasn’t look good in the outfield at any point in his major league career.

The Blue Jays have a very poor defensive outfield, which I suppose isn’t surprising with Fisher in right and natural infielder Lourdes Gurriel in left field. Their minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved are second worst among baseball’s 30 outfield units and they’ve turned only 87 percent of fly balls into outs this year. That is seventh worst in baseball. 

Toronto has an excellent young position player core and their pitching is improved as well, Tuesday night notwithstanding. The team defense definitely needs to tight up though. Fisher had a rough night Tuesday but it’s not just him. It’s the outfield in general.

The Yankees are back in second place

As recently last Tuesday, the Yankees were three games behind the Blue Jays for second place. Six consecutive wins later, they are back in second back and a half-game up on Toronto. That moves them up from the No. 7 seed in the expanded postseason field to the No. 5 seed. Here are the updated AL East standings:

  1. Rays: 31-17
  2. Yankees: 27-20 (4 GB)
  3. Blue Jays: 20-27 (4 1/2 GB)
  4. Orioles: 21-26 (10 GB)
  5. Red Sox: 18-31 (13 1/2 GB)

The race for second place is far from over, of course. The Yankees and Blue Jays each have 12 games remaining, including six more against each other (two more in New York this week and four in Buffalo next week). Both teams are postseason locks at this point, but the second place team has a chance at homefield advantage in the Wild Card Series, and that’s not to be dismissed.

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