Toronto were well beaten by the New York Yankees in the first match of the four-game series earlier this week and Blue Jays head coach John Gibbons will be demanding a positive response ahead of the weekend.
The Yankees, 14/1 with Bet365 in the World Series outrights, were simply sublime in the 12-2 victory on Thursday but Toronto fans won’t be writing their side off just yet; the Blue Jays have won six of their last eight games and New York could be in for a difficult couple of days.
Despite their recent resurgence, Toronto are still rock bottom in the American League East and the playoffs look an absolute world away.
They have been boosted by the return of key players from injury layoffs but the Blue Jays have it all to do if they are to compete with the best baseball franchises in the business at the end of the campaign. For now, victory over the Yankees is the first port of call.
Toronto Blue Jays
Don’t back against the Blue Jays right now, Gibbons and co are starting to piece their season together. Toronto aren’t the complete package by any means but the Canadian outfit are heading in the right direction.
The whitewash series victory against the Cincinnati Reds will help to convince the doubters that Toronto are improving and success over the Yankees, one of Major League Baseball’s most consistent and successful teams, would be the icing on the proverbial cake.
At home, the Blue Jays have been solid in recent weeks. They now have a winning record in front of their own supporters and they are THE in-form team in the American League; an incredible statistic considering their slow start to the campaign.
KEY MAN: JOSE BAUTISTA. Bautista is in fantastic form right now and Toronto fans will look towards him to fire the Blue Jays to victory.
He struggled to inspire confidence in April but shone during May and he will look to carry that momentum into June. As of June 2nd, he has struck nine home runs in recent weeks and he deserves to be recognised as one of Toronto’s most effective and valuable players.
KEY MAN: JUSTIN SMOAK. Without a doubt, Smoak has been playing some of the best baseball of his career in recent months and Toronto fans should be grateful for his impact.
In fact, he was almost cut during the offseason but the Blue Jays will be glad that they didn’t allow him to walk away – he has been central to their recent resurgence. With 12 home runs so far this season, he has had a positive influence on the Toronto franchise.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have been in red hot form this season and it would take a brave man to back against New York on current form, even against the confident Blue Jays. They made Marco Estrada look ordinary in the opening game of the series earlier this week and Toronto will need to be much improved to stand any chance of victory.
Joe Girardi has a potential World Series-winning roster at his disposal and the Yankees will look to continue their fine run of form. New York are currently sitting pretty at the top of the American League East and they will take some stopping in their pursuit of a 28th World Series championship.
KEY MAN: AARON HICKS. When Jacob Ellsbury went down injured, Yankees fans were left cursing their luck. They needn’t have bothered. Aaron Hicks has stepped up to the plate in recent weeks and he is relishing the chance to prove his worth on the big stage.
With four hits and a career-high six runs in Thursday’s victory, Hicks is in tremendous nick right now and he could continue to grow and develop as the series goes on.
New York weren’t messing about in Thursday’s clash but the Blue Jays could bounce back stronger for that mammoth defeat. At the very least, Canadian fans should expect this one to be a lot closer and, with a bit of luck, Toronto could emerge victorious. Backing Gibbons’ side to win may be a little far-fetched considering the gulf in class between the two sides earlier this week but a closer affair could be on the cards.
BLUE JAYS 4-7 YANKEES