Blue Jays shutout as Yankees expose potential playoff flaws

By Shi Davidi, Sportsnet

What a service the New York Yankees have provided for the post-season clubs that may run into the Toronto Blue Jays, should they get there as expected, during the past week.

Sure, not every team can run out two starters the calibre of Michael King and the clear American League Cy Young favourite in Gerrit Cole, who punctuated his brilliant year with a two-hit shutout.

But there’s lots from their outings for, say, the scouting staff and analytics department of the Minnesota Twins to pull from as they gameplan how Sonny Gray and Pablo Lopez might attack the Blue Jays. And while there are no secrets between the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays, the latter is always on the hunt for any little edge to deploy with the likes of Tyler Glasnow and Zach Eflin.

So, as much as Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss was an immediate setback that again pushed back their clinching of a post-season berth, it was also a portent of things to come, both this weekend when the Rays arrive to close out the regular season and beyond, assuming there’s a beyond.

The Blue Jays (87-71) began the day 1.5 games up on the Houston Astros (86-72) and two games up on the Mariners (85-72), with the AL West rivals clashing in Seattle later Wednesday.

To that end, figuring out a pathway to more damage against elite starters is an obvious Blue Jays priority after combining for five hits and no runs the past two nights, just as it has been for much of the season.

And on this night, it’s not like opportunity wasn’t there, as Cole repeatedly challenged and beat them in the strike zone.

Now, that’s much easier said than done when Cole is throwing five pitches out of the same tunnel moving in different directions at different speeds.

Dude is likely to win the Cy Young for good reason.

Still, it’s pitchers like him who’ll be in the Blue Jays’ way should they get to the seventh month.

They’ll also need to figure out how to navigate hitters like Aaron Judge, not that there are many of those. His two-run homer in the fourth was the first hit off a very strong but unfortunate Jose Berrios, while his two-run homer in the seventh helped push the game further out of reach.

While Judge’s first homer broke the ice and put the Blue Jays in a hole, it was his next plate appearance where things really turned before a Rogers Centre crowd of 31,923.

With two out and one on, Berrios was set to attack the defending AL MVP when pitching coach Pete Walker suddenly came out to the mound. Locked into his pitch, Berrios didn’t notice him until he was in fair territory and after they chatted, missed three times before intentionally walking the slugger.

Berrios then walked Gleyber Torres as well to load the bases for the slumping Giancarlo Stanton, who ripped a hanging breaking ball to left. After Ben Rortvedt scored, Whit Merrifield’s throw home looked set to get Judge but Matt Chapman tried to cut it off, had it clank off his glove and deflect away.

Berrios collected the ball and fired to third to get Torres and escape the inning, but by then the damage was done, as maybe two runs was possible against a top-form Cole, but four wasn’t very likely.

That he struck out 10 and was generally overwhelming will be lost for Berrios, who capped off an impressive bounce-back year that has him set to pitch in the second game of a playoff series.

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