"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Toronto Blue Jays

While panic sets in across town and to the northeast, the Yankees come off a restful, mid-homestand off-day looking to extend a four game winning streak with their ace on the mound looking for win number 19.

The bad news is that their opponent is the very same Blue Jays team that just swept the Red Sox, and that Toronto will send its four top starters to the mound in this series, beginning with ace Roy Halladay tonight. Halladay has failed to complete the seventh inning just once in his last dozen starts (going six full in the one exception), posting a 2.82 ERA with five complete games, one of them a shutout of the then-hot Mariners, and a 1.15 WHIP over that stretch. He’s faced the Yankees twice during that run, holding them to one run in seven innings in the Bronx in mid-July and allowing just seven base runners in seven innings while striking out eight in a match-up against Wang in early August (though Halliday did give up four runs in that game on a pair of home runs by Robinson Cano and another by Hideki Matsui).

That August 8 game saw Chien-Ming Wang struggle through 2 2/3 innings in what was easily the worst start of his career. There’s been an alarming symetry to Wang’s starts since then as his earned run totals in his seven stars since look like this: 5, 3, 1, 0, 1, 3, 5, bringing him back to the rematch with Halladay tonight. Here’s hoping he breaks the pattern.

As for the Blue Jays, they’ve finally shut down Vernon Wells in anticipation of his shoulder surgery. Wells had gone 0 for 17 in the Jays’ recent series against the Red Sox and Yankees, so that’s hardly a loss to the Jays. They also managed to sweep Boston without the help of Troy Glaus, who was shut down prior to Yankees series in Toronto and has since been placed on the 60-day DL with a season ending foot injury, or Lyle Overbay, who’s been limited to pinch-hit and defensive-replacement duty over the past week in anticipation of his having four pins removed from his hand when the team travels to Baltimore on Tuesday.

Matt Stairs has become the regular first baseman in Overbay’s stead, but he was just 1 for 10 with a pair of walks and three Ks against Boston. Russ Adams, who has filled in for Glaus, was more troublesome, going 3 for 8 with a double and that back-breaking grand slam off Jonathan Papelbon on Wednesday night. Adams had seven RBIs altogether in the Boston series and was 4 for 10 with a double and three walks against the Yankees when they were in Toronto last week. Alex Rios is the only Blue Jay other than Wells to play center field this year. That means the Jays will replace Wells in the lineup with a corner outfielder. With Stairs already in at first base, that means the Jays will have Reed Johnson and Adam Lind in the corners, which fully exhausts the supply of outfielders on their roster, though recent addition Joe Inglett, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians to take Glaus’s place on the roster, and Hector Luna, who preceeded Inglett in making the move from Cleveland to Toronto, are both legitimate utility men who can play both infield and outfield if needed.

As for Johnson and Lind, Johnson only drew one start in each series against Boston and New York, going 0 for 8 with no walks and three Ks in those games, but he went 7 for 15 while starting all three games against the Orioles in between. Adam Lind went 1 for 7 with a pair of Ks in two starts against Boston and 0 for 2 as a pinch-hitter against the Yanks, but did walk and homer in the finale against the O’s.

As you might suspect by now, the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox with pitching, holding Boston to just five runs over three games. Dustin McGowan, who will face Roger Clemens on Sunday, set the pace with a complete game on Monday in which he allowed one run on five hits and no walks while striking out nine. A.J. Burnett, who will rematch with Phil Hughes in Monday’s makeup game, followed by striking out 11 and falling one-out shy of another complete game in a contest decided by an Eric Gagne blown save in the eighth (lefty Scott Downs struck out Jacoby Ellsbury to earn an easy one-out save). In the finale, fifth-starter Jesse Litsch limited the Sox to just two hits, one of them a J.D. Drew solo homer for the only Boston run, over 6 2/3 innings, then got 2 2/3 innings of one-hit/no-walk relief from his bullpen with closer Jeremy Accardo striking out three of the four men he faced (Mike Lowell, Drew, and Jason Varitek) to earn the save.

To that end, this series is a great test run for the playoffs as the Yankees will have to hit great pitching and out-pitch great pitching to come away with a win. The Red Sox, meanwhile, face their nemesis Scott Kasmir in Tampa. Kazmir, who has more starts again Boston than any other team in his young career, has a 2.62 ERA with 109 Ks, just 76 hits, and six hit batsmen in 96 1/3 career innings against the Red Sox. Most recently, Kazmir held the Sox scoreless for seven innings while striking out ten and allowing just seven baserunners in a 1-0 Devil Ray win on September 10. The Sox counter with Josh Beckett, who’s looking to become the majors’ first 20-game winner this year.

Just for good measure, the Mets send Pedro Martinez to the hill in Miami, while Cy Young contenders Jake Peavy, Fausto Carmona, and Johan Santana also toe the rubber, though the last does so without any postseason implications. Should be an interesting night of baseball.

Update: Per Peter Abraham, Ian Kennedy’s been scratched from his start on Saturday with a tight upper back. That moves everyone in the rotation up a day starting with Clemens. No word on whether or not the Yanks will try to have Kennedy start in the final week, or if they’ll just shut him down for the season. If this were Hughes, I’d think the latter would be the no-brainer decision, but Kennedy has been pitching better than Hughes recently and could be valuable as a long man out of the pen in the postseason. Balancing the current year’s run for an unlikely championship against the long-term health of the young franchise arms will likely continue to be a major story throughout the postseason and all of 2008.

Toronto Blue Jays

2007 Record: 77-75 (.507)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 81-71 (.534)

Manager: John Gibbons
General Manager: J. P. Riccardi

Home Ballpark (2007 Park Factors): Rogers Centre (103/103)


Joe Inglett replaces Troy Glaus (DL)
Matt Stairs replaces Lyle Overbay at first base
Alex Rios replaces Vernon Wells in center field
Reed Johnson replaces Rios in right field
Adam Lind replaces the platoon of Stairs and Johnson in left field

25-man Roster:

1B – Matt Stairs (L)
2B – Aaron Hill (R)
SS – John McDonald (R)
3B – Russ Adams (L)
C – Gregg Zaun (S)
RF – Reed Johnson (R)
CF – Alex Rios (R)
LF – Adam Lind (L)
DH – Frank Thomas (R)


L – Lyle Overbay (1B)
S – Ray Olmedo (IF)
R – Hector Luna (UT)
L – Joe Inglett (UT)
R – Curtis Thigpen (C)
R – Sal Fasano (C)
R – Vernon Wells (CF)*


R – Roy Halladay
R – Shaun Marcum
R – Dustin McGowan
R – A.J. Burnett
R – Jesse Litsch


R – Jeremy Accardo
R – Jason Frasor
L – Scott Downs
R – Casey Janssen
R – Brandon League
L – Brian Tallet
R – Josh Towers
R – Brian Wolf
L – Joe Kennedy
R – Josh Banks

60-day DL: R – Troy Glaus (3B), L – B. J. Ryan, L – Gustavo Chacin, L – Davis Romero

*out for the season

Typical Lineup:

R – Reed Johnson (RF)
L – Matt Stairs (1B)
R – Alex Rios (CF)
R – Frank Thomas (DH)
R – Aaron Hill (2B)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)
L – Adam Lind (RF)
R – Russ Adams (3B)
R – John McDonald (SS)

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver