Trade deadline fallout

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We’ve already heard about who was traded, what could have been, and who the winners and losers are, but here’s my take on just some of the fallout from around the league:

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– Edwin Encarnacion going to the Blue Jays might be the best thing that possibly could have happened to him. As I wrote last weekend,
I thought the trade was a brutal idea from the Reds’ perspective, and I
hold true to that, but Encarnacion benefits big-time with this trade,
moving over to an organization where he has a real chance to flourish.
He’ll never be a great play with the glove, and a move to the outfield
or first base would serve him well in the future, but don’t be
surprised to see a 30-HR, 100 RBI season in short order.

– With Nick Johnson headed to Florida, Adam Dunn figures to see most
of his time at first base now (at least he can hide a little bit over
there), with Elijah Dukes being called up for another opportunity in
the outfield. One interesting tidbit, don’t discount Josh Willingham at
first base. He played the eighth and ninth innings of Friday’s game
there.

– Before Kenny Williams shocked the baseball world with the Jake
Peavy trade, Victor Martinez was the big fish of the day. He joins a
crowded C/1B/3B/DH scenario in Boston with Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell,
Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and the newly-acquired Casey Kotchman all
itching for at-bats. It’s a stroke of genius by Theo Epstein and an
embarassment of riches for manager Terry Francona. This way he can keep
Lowell and Tek’ fresh for a run at the post-season, while playing
matchups as he sees fit without losing much offensively. That said, for
the fantasy baseball set, it’s a mess. You hate the Red Sox right now.

– With Jeff Clement tearing up minor league pitching — he slugged
two homers in his debut for Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday night —
this might be Steve Pearce’s last chance to make it in the Pirates
organization. Now 26-years-old, the former top-prospect will get the
majority of starts at first base with Adam LaRoche out of the way.
Pearce has 89 homers in 517 career minor league games, but a
.256/.310/.411 line through 219 at-bats in the majors have critics
deeming him your classic AAAA hitter. Pirates’ fans hope he’s more like
the player they saw last September (four homers in 51 at-bats). We’ll
see.

– Now that Orlando Cabrera was shipped off to Minnesota, 2005
first-round pick Cliff Pennington gets the call from Triple-A
Sacramento. Just to show you how far the 2004 Rookie of the Year Bobby
Crosby has fallen, Athletics general manager Billy Beane said that
Pennington will get “the benefit of a long trial” at the position. But
with a .242 batting average in 99 at-bats in the majors and a
.264/.345/.367 line at Sacramento this season, the jury is out on
Pennington, too.

– Calling himself a closer by “default,” Jim Johnson will take over
ninth-inning duties in Baltimore now that George Sherrill calls
Mannywood home. He’s probably right. The 3.25 ERA over his first two
seasons looks great — as does the 55.6 career groundball rate. But
without the benefit of a pure strikeout pitch, Johnson has averaged
just 5.46 K/9 over his first 98 games in the majors. Likewise, his 3.61
BB/9 doesn’t breed much confidence. Expect some sweaty palms in
Baltimore.

– One more note on the Pirates, since they’ve had so much turnover
recently. Delwyn Young, once heralded as a top prospect in the Dodgers
organization, is very quietly batting .310/.375/.420 with four home
runs and 22 RBI in 174 at-bats with the Pirates this season. Without a
suitable replacement for Freddy Sanchez in the Pittsburgh pipeline, the
27-year-old will get a good look-see at second base. That said, serious
questions about his defense remain. And with a .410 BABIP, color me
skeptical.

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

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the 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 series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

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 this weekend 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.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

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.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

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.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

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

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

The Blue Jays extended their lead when 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: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

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.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

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.