TORONTO — The Blue Jays were the post-trade deadline story of 2015. Going “all in,” as Brian McCann put it Sunday, with deals for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki the centerpieces of a deadline haul, Toronto blew past the Yankees to win the AL East by six games.
“It wasn’t really fun for us,” Didi Gregorius said of the Yankees’ front-row seat for the Jays’ charge.
The Blue Jays went 13-6 against the Yankees last season, including 9-4 in the second half. Toronto trailed the first-place Yankees by eight games July 28, the day the Tulowitzki deal was announced, and went 43-18 the rest of the regular season.
Price, who was acquired July 30, led the rotation, and sluggers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson (the American League MVP) and Tulowitzki led the offense. Price signed with the Red Sox during the offseason, but pretty much the entire offense that led the majors in runs with 891 is back, the reason many people picked the Blue Jays to repeat in what looks like a balanced division.
“They’re the team to beat,” said Masahiro Tanaka, who will start the opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays (3-4) Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
Said Joe Girardi: “I know some people have probably picked them to win the division, and I understand. They’re extremely talented, but you have to play the games. But we know they’re good.”
The Yankees appear to have caught a break with Sunday night’s rainout in Detroit, which Tanaka was scheduled to start. The righthander is 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts against Toronto, including 2-0, 1.69 in two starts at Rogers Centre.
Tanaka faced the Blue Jays four times last season, going 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA, including a complete-game 5-1 victory here Aug. 15. Winning in front of a hostile sellout crowd of 46,630 temporarily kept the Yankees in first place.
“I can’t go into details what kind of approach, what kind of pitching I’m going to do, because it will give them the idea [of his game plan],” Tanaka said through his translator. “[But] yes, it’s always good to have success against other batters. It’s the image you have inside from the past of being successful. That’s always a plus.”
McCann said that with the loss of Price, “you’re going to take a hit,” but he praised righthander Marcus Stroman, the former Patchogue-Medford High School ace who has taken over as the rotation’s leader. Stroman is scheduled to start Thursday night’s series finale against Nathan Eovaldi.
“Stroman’s tough,” McCann said. “He’s their ace and he’s pitching like it.”
But most talk about the Blue Jays revolves around an offense that can traumatize a pitching staff.
“I think there’s curiosity to see how we match up against them this year. They’re basically the same team,” Girardi said. “Obviously, they’re very talented, they swing the bats extremely well. And to me, you have to stay away from giving that team extra outs, because if you do, they’re going to kill you.”