The Toronto Blue Jays locked up a playoff spot Thursday afternoon without taking the field, securing a berth when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.
Canada’s lone big-league team got the good news on an off-day ahead of Friday’s series opener against the visiting Red Sox.
With downtime valuable during the stretch drive, the team was expected to celebrate the accomplishment after the series opener against the Red Sox.
It will be Toronto’s first post-season appearance since the truncated 2020 campaign. With six games left to play, the Blue Jays can now turn their focus to playoff positioning.
“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home.
“So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”
If Toronto maintains its grip on the first of three American League wild-card seeds, then the Blue Jays would play at Rogers Centre for the best-of-three first-round series.
The second- and third-seeded wild-card teams would open on the road.
It’s part of a new Major League Baseball playoff format this year. The top two division winners in each league get byes to the division series.
The third-ranked division winner will host the third wild-card seed (No. 6 seed overall) in one wild-card series and the top wild-card entry (No. 4 seed overall) welcomes the second wild-card seed (No. 5 overall) in the other.
Toronto has a two-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays, who fell 2-1 to the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday, and the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners were scheduled to play the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
The Yankees have already clinched the East Division title.
Toronto was swept by the Rays in the wild-card series in 2020. It was the Blue Jays’ first playoff appearance since 2016.
Toronto won World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press