Blue Jays out to dash Yanks' division plans

Blue Jays out to dash Yanks' division plans

The Blue Jays are thriving in their role as spoiler and have made the race for first place in the American League East a lot more entertaining than anyone could have expected. The next Yankees loss or Red Sox win clinches the division for Boston.

Toronto is coming off a series victory over the Red Sox, which stopped Boston from clinching and instead made Boston's end-of-the-year matchup with Houston very meaningful. The Blue Jays will now have a similar chance to dash the hopes of the Yankees and limit them to an AL Wild Card spot.

The Blue Jays and Yankees will meet when their final regular-season series gets underway Friday at Yankee Stadium. New York will hand the ball to Masahiro Tanaka, while the Blue Jays will counter with fellow right-hander Joe Biagini.

"A couple of weeks ago, you look at your schedule, when you know you're out of it, you're glad you're playing teams that are in it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Enthusiasm is a big deal."

Tanaka faced the Blue Jays during his last start and the outing did not go well. He allowed eight runs on six hits and three walks in an 8-1 loss at Rogers Centre. It was the second time in his past three starts that he allowed at least seven runs, and he's 2-2 with a 6.46 ERA this month.

Biagini has been just as inconsistent for the Blue Jays as he continues to alternate between good outings and bad ones. During Biagini's outing Saturday vs. the Yankees, he allowed three runs on three hits and four walks. On Sept. 17 vs. the Twins, however, Biagini surrendered six runs (four earned) and recorded just four outs.

Three things to know about this game

• Since striking out 10 and collecting 14 swinging strikes on Sept. 1 at Baltimore, Biagini has picked up just eight more Ks and 17 whiffs over four outings. His 5.9 percent swinging-strike rate since Sept. 6 is third lowest among those with at least 250 pitches thrown.

• With the division still on the line, the Blue Jays are expected to go with their A-list lineup. Core veteran players such as Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Jose Bautista will all appear in the series opener. Gibbons did leave open the possibility of sitting Bautista in Sunday's finale if the game is not a factor in the standings.

• Left fielder Teoscar Hernandez has eight home runs this month, the most ever by a Toronto rookie in September.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.