Jays aim to keep rolling vs. Yankees (Apr 18, 2018)

April 18, 2018

NEW YORK -- While Giancarlo Stanton is struggling with his new surroundings, the Toronto Blue Jays are off to one of the best starts in team history.

Three weeks after Stanton homered in his first at-bat for the New York Yankees in Toronto, things are going drastically different for the American League East foes in the opening weeks of the season.

Stanton will attempt to get rolling Thursday night while the Blue Jays hope to continue their strong start in the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

After going 0-for-4 and hearing boos for two more strikeouts in a 9-1 loss to the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, Stanton is batting .197 (13-for-66) through his first 16 games. While he has three homers, seven extra-base hits and 10 RBIs, Stanton has struck out 29 times.

"I see a guy that's really focused," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Obviously, he's frustrated, and you want to go out there and perform, especially when you're an MVP. Obviously, he expects a lot of himself, but I think his focus is tremendous and I'm confident in the work he's putting in and he's a worker, he gets after it and I'm confident once he gets rolling it'll be a juggernaut.

Stanton's numbers at home are significantly low as fans continue to boo him for each unproductive at-bat. In his first eight home games, Stanton is batting .086 (3-for-36) with 20 strikeouts. Since his first series in Toronto, the outfielder is batting .173 (9-for-52) in a span of 12 games.

"Track record don't matter at the moment, you got to understand what you've done," Stanton said while standing in the locker previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez.

Stanton is hardly the only Yankee to get into a rhythm and it's showing in their 8-8 record, their .248 batting average and 17 errors.

"Obviously we've got to play better baseball," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

At 12-5, the Blue Jays are off to their best start since 2009 and, it is a significantly different start than last season. En route to 76 wins, Toronto did not get its 12th win until its 32nd game on May 8.

"We're playing good baseball," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Bottom line is we're doing everything well. You ride that."

Toronto has scored 39 runs and is hitting .291 (43-for-148) during a four-game winning streak. The streak which continued in Wednesday's 15-5 win over the Kansas City Royals when Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam and Teoscar Hernandez collected a career-high four hits and fell a double shy of the cycle.

Toronto owns a 3.79 ERA so far and sends Aaron Sanchez out for his fourth start for the Blue Jays and the right-hander is showing increased use of his changeup.

After missing most of last season with blister issues, Sanchez is throwing the changeup 27.7 percent of the time with an average velocity of 88.4. When he went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA two years ago, Sanchez threw the changeup 9.1 percent of the time at 88.3 mph.

Sanchez threw 29 changeups on April 10 when he lost a no-hit bid in the eighth inning at Baltimore. He allowed one run on three hits while throwing 60 of 98 pitches for strikes in a 2-1 victory.

"After I gave up the hit, I was like, whatever," Sanchez said. "It would have been cool if I got to throw a no-hitter, but ... I didn't care about anything else but winning the ball game."

"He was dynamite tonight," manager John Gibbons said. "That unbelievable changeup has really opened up a lot of things for him. It was probably one of the most effortless outings I've ever seen him have."

Sanchez faced the Yankees on March 30 and allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings during a 4-2 loss. In his last outing against the Yankees, Sanchez threw his changeup 17 times.

Sanchez is 2-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 14 career appearances (four starts) against the Yankees.

CC Sabathia is expected to come off the disabled list after missing nearly two weeks with a strained right hip. The injury forced him out of a start on April 6 against the Baltimore Orioles after four innings when he allowed three runs and four hits in an eventual 7-3, 14-inning loss.

Sabathia's return was originally slated for Tuesday to return but rainouts in Detroit pushed it back two days.

Sabathia is 17-11 with a 3.59 ERA in 31 career starts against the Blue Jays. He made his season debut at Toronto on March 31 and allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits during five innings in a no-decision.

The left-hander is 2-7 with a 7.37 ERA in his last 12 starts against Toronto since the start of the 2015 season.