(Photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
The visiting New York Yankees will try to continue in their role as spoilers Wednesday night when they send out right-hander Gerrit Cole to face the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees won the opener of the three-game series 2-0 on Tuesday thanks to a two-run home run in the ninth by Austin Wells against Toronto closer Jordan Romano. The Yankees' 24-year-old rookie catcher has 11 career hits, including four doubles and three home runs.
In his past five games, Wells is hitting .316 (6-for-19) with a double, three homers and five RBIs.
"He's a guy, I feel like long-term, he's gonna hit," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said recently. "He's got that 'looks hitter-ish' thing to me."
The Yankees (80-77) were officially eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend. The Blue Jays (87-70) are trying to clinch an American League wild-card spot. Toronto currently holds the second AL wild-card position, 1 1/2 games in front of the Houston Astros (86-72) and two games ahead of the Seattle Mariners (85-72).
Cole (14-4, 2.75 ERA) held Toronto to one run in eight innings on Thursday in New York when the Yankees salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Cole, a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, is 7-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 15 career starts against Toronto, including 1-0 with a 0.46 ERA in three starts this year.
"Even though we're out of it now, we have a lot to play for and a lot to prove over this final week of the season," Boone said Tuesday. "I feel like guys are of that mindset."
Boone has one year left on his contract but said Monday he had not been told if he would be back.
The Yankees did not play right fielder Aaron Judge nor shortstop Anthony Volpe on Tuesday. They are expected to play Wednesday.
Toronto will hand the ball to right-hander Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.58 ERA) on Wednesday. In two starts against the Yankees this season, he has allowed seven runs in 12 1/3 innings while losing both times. In 11 career starts against the Yankees, he is 3-6 with a 5.14 ERA.
He will hope for more offensive support than the Blue Jays mustered on Tuesday, when they managed one hit in six innings against Yankees starter Michael King and three for the game.
They wasted a solid outing from starter Kevin Gausman, who allowed three hits in seven shutout innings.
"He's as consistent as they come in the league," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. "Having a true ace is awesome, then having four guys behind him who have been really, really good big-league pitchers is great."
Gausman said, "I'm tired, that's for sure, but I feel good overall. I'm happy to have made all my starts to this point. That's definitely a goal going into every season. That's one thing as a pitching staff we've done a great job of. Four guys making 30 starts, that's super rare. ...
"I've been on a lot of teams where the last month of the season doesn't mean anything. To be in the last week of the season with a question mark is fun, exciting, stressful, all of the things. That's what you want as a player, to be in this situation and being able to control our own destiny."
Toronto reinstated first baseman Brandon Belt, who had been out due to back spasms, from the injured list on Tuesday and recalled right-hander Jay Jackson from Triple-A Buffalo. Infielder Spencer Horwitz and right-hander Nate Pearson were optioned to the Florida Complex League.
Belt went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game since Sept. 11.
--Field Level Media