The Yankees were able to capture their first win of the season last night in Houston, escaping the three game series against the Astros with a 4-2 win in the series finale. Afterwards, they got on a plane headed North of the Boarder for a three game weekend series again the Toronto Blue Jays.
Friday night's game at the Rogers Centre will be the Jays' first home game of the season, so we should expect the atmosphere to be pretty electric tonight.
The Jays are coming home from Tampa where they open their season with a four game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, splitting the series two games apiece.
Probable pitching matchups:
- Friday, 4/4: Masahiro Tanaka vs Dustin McGowan
- Saturday, 4/5: Michael Pineda vs R.A. Dickey
- Sunday, 4/5: CC Sabathia vs Drew Hutchinson
For this series preview, we spoke with Ian Hunter, editor of bluejayhunter.com, and he gave us some insight on the Blue Jays, and we can expect from the first of many meetings this season.
1. Expectations for the Blue Jays this season: "I think the Blue Jays are at best a fourth-place team. In any other division, the current roster would probably have a decent chance, but the quality of teams within the American League East is in a much higher stratosphere. The only legitimate shot they have is if Blue Jays can somehow avoid the injury bug and have breakout seasons from players like Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and Melky Cabrera."
2. The Jays lost Jose Reyes after one game; how big of a loss is that: "Losing an All-Star shortstop the caliber of Jose Reyes is a huge loss for any team, let alone one like the Blue Jays who desperately need a spark plug at the top of the lineup. When Reyes went down last year, the Blue Jays actually went 34-32 without him in the lineup.
"Right now the Blue Jays can defensively fill the void at shortstop in the interim with Jonathan Diaz and/or Ryan Goins, but it's the offense and speed which they will sorely miss with Jose Reyes out of the lineup."
3. Players to watch for this series: "One - Jose Bautista. He had an incredible Spring Training campaign with 6 home runs, and is showing no signs of letting up in the first week of regular season action. For me, Jose Bautista at bats are always appointment viewing because you never know when he'll launch one out of the park with pure ferociousness.
"And secondly, Drew Hutchison - the starter for Sunday's game. He's a young, promising starting pitcher who looked great in his season debut against the Rays. Heading to the hill against the New York Yankees will be a true test of his ability."
4. Pitcher to lookout for: "R.A. Dickey. If his knuckleball is dancing like he wants it to, Dickey is nearly unhittable within the confines of the Rogers Centre. He has a 5-3 record in 8 career starts versus the Yankees with a 2.88 ERA.
"There were some concerns about his knuckleball velocity on Opening Day, as he topped out at 78.6 MPH. Ideally, he wants it to be in the high 70's/low 80's to maximize the full effect of the pitch."
5. Outsider's thoughts on the Yankees' chances this season: "I always marvel at how often people count the Yankees out early in the season, and yet they somehow manage to make it interesting in the second half. The Yankees were decimated with injuries just as much as the Blue Jays were last season, and yet the Yankees still finished 85-77 while the Jays were 74-88.
"As someone from the outside looking in, I'd say age is the big concern surrounding this Yankees roster, but the overall quality of players on the squad is still very high. I think the Yankees have a better shot at making the playoffs than the Blue Jays do, that's for sure. But it will be a tough fight for New York with potentially 3-4 playoff-worthy teams in the division."
Special thanks to Ian for answering a few questions, and make sure that if you go anywhere for Blue Jays news and commentary, it's at bluejayhunter.com.