September 23, 2017 / 2:16 AM / a month ago

Preview: Yankees at Blue Jays

The surging New York Yankees have all but locked up the top wild card but they still have their eyes on a division title entering the opener of a three-game series at the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. New York has won three games in a row and seven of eight to trail first-place Boston by three games in the American League East.

“If you’re fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, you want to be playing well at that time,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We will continue to do everything we can to win every game and see where we fall.” New York’s offense has flexed its muscles by averaging 6.7 runs during a 14-4 run to keep the heat on the rival Red Sox with 10 games remaining. Aaron Judge has bounced back from a second-half swoon with six homers in his last 10 games to boost his total to 45 -- four shy of Mark McGwire’s major league rookie record. Toronto, which enters its final home series of the year, dropped two of three to Kansas City and saw its Nos. 2-4 hitters, Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Jose Bautista, go a combined 2-for-29.

TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, WPIX (New York), TVAS, Sportsnet (Toronto)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees RH Masahiro Tanaka (12-11, 4.73 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (9-8, 4.84)

Tanaka improved to 4-1 in his last five starts, bouncing back from a clunker at Texas by going seven strong innings and limiting Baltimore to two runs. He lasted only four-plus innings at Toronto on Aug. 9, allowing three runs and a season-high five walks in a no-decision. Donaldson and Smoak are a combined 4-for-40 against Tanaka, who is 8-3 with a 2.62 ERA against the Blue Jays.

After going nearly 2 1/2 months without a victory, Estrada enters Friday’s matchup riding a six-start unbeaten streak, including eight strong innings of two-run ball at Minnesota on Saturday. Signed to a one-year contract earlier this week, Estrada blanked the Yankees on five hits over seven innings on Aug. 10 to improve to 5-3 against them. Starlin Castro is 15-for-36 versus Estrada.

WALK-OFFS

1. Judge joined Ted Williams as the only rookies with 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored and 100 walks.

2. Bautista struck out for the 160th time Thursday night to set a franchise record.

3. Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury is 9-for-16 during a five-game hitting streak.

PREDICTION: Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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