Blue Jays riding high entering big series in New York

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays look like they could be contenders for a while in the American League.

Whether they can make the playoffs this year remains to be seen — and this next series may go a long way toward determining that.

Guerrero had three hits in Sunday’s 8-0 win over Oakland, the fourth victory in a row for Toronto. The Blue Jays are four games behind Boston for the second wild card in the American League — and 4 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for the first wild card. Toronto begins a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

No matter how that turns out, the future looks bright for Canada’s lone major league team. Guerrero is 22 and very much living up to expectations, and 23-year-old Bo Bichette is having a fine season at shortstop. Teoscar Hernández was an All-Star this year and is 28.

Toronto has shown a willingness to spend. The Blue Jays signed George Springer to a $150 million, six-year deal last offseason. But the big question now might be whether Toronto can keep second baseman Marcus Semien and left-hander Robbie Ray, who have had terrific seasons on one-year contracts.

Those are concerns for the future, though. The Blue Jays still have hope this year. Their run differential of plus-128 is better than the Yankees (plus-51) and Red Sox (plus-58) combined. Now they’ll have a chance to make up ground against New York head to head.

In the day’s other all-NL Central matchup, the Cubs and Pirates combined for three grand slams, tying a major league record. Bryan Reynolds hit one for Pittsburgh, and Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel hit them for Chicago. The Cubs won 11-8.

Trivia Time

As promising as Toronto’s roster is, don’t underestimate the difficulty of overcoming the Yankees and Red Sox. Right now, Tampa Bay leads the AL East, but if the Blue Jays were to rally to a second-place finish behind the Rays, that would be quite an event.

It’s been a while since both New York and Boston finished lower than second place in the AL East. Name the year.

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