Soon every Cubs hitter will have his own coach

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Last month the Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry one season after
he presided over the league’s highest-scoring offense, so having run
out of ideas for how to get Kosuke Fukudome on track now that he’s
faded following a great start for the second straight season they’ve turned to his old hitting coach from Japan for help:

Kyosuke Sasaki will join the team in Philadelphia on Monday. Sasaki
will work with Fukudome for a week or so, hoping to get the same kind
of success he saw with the Chunichi Dragons, where Fukudome won a pair
of batting titles. “He’s going to be on the field and in uniform with
us for a few days and let him observe,” manager Lou Piniella said. “If
need be, he can work with Fukudome all he wants.”

Last year Fukudome hit .327/.436/.480 in April compared to
.241/.340/.355 from May 1 on and this year he batted .338/.461/.592 in
April only to hit .235/.346/.385 since, but it’s worth noting that he’s
at .288/.377/.577 with nine extra-base hits in 15 games this month.
Meanwhile, Piniella has bypassed new hitting coach Von Joshua and plans to personally tutor Milton Bradley:

Piniella plans to take a turn soon at trying to solve Milton
Bradley’s season-long hitting slump from the left side of the plate
that neither Bradley nor two hitting coaches have cracked. “I had a
nice talk with Bradley,” Piniella said. “I’m going to work with him
personally for a while and see if we can get him going.” …

Joshua has worked with Bradley on getting his top half in sync with
his bottom half in his left-handed stance and swing. “We’re going to
try to simplify things a little bit,” Piniella said. “We’re going to
get him a little shorter path to the ball, increase a little bat speed.
And we can do that with a couple of adjustments, I feel. We’ll start
[today]. And when he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”

Now that Sasaki “can work with Fukudome all he wants” and Piniella is
taking care of Bradley, Joshua is left with just 10 hitters to work
with. Or maybe 11 if you decide to count either Andres Blanco or Carlos Zambrano as hitters. Not a bad gig.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round playoff series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason.

Blue Jays players embraced on the diamond at their temporary home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it.

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh, pitching around Clint Frazier‘s leadoff single by setting down the next three, including pinch-hitter Aaron Judge. The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second, his eighth.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Judge is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, manager Aaron Boone said.

BIG HIT

New York infielder D.J. LeMaheiu went 1 for 5, dropping his MLB-best average to .355. A former NL batting champ seeing his first AL title, LeMahieu is well ahead of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. The Chicago star went 0 for 4 in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, dropping his average to .338.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.