By Gregory Strong in Toronto
The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays warmed up for the playoffs Sunday with a matchup that meant little on the field but had an impact on post-season seeding.
Tampa Bay outscored Toronto 12-8 at Rogers Centre in a game that had a pre-season feel with several regulars out of the lineup.
Toronto will be seeded sixth in the American League and open the best-of-three wild-card series Tuesday at Minnesota. Since the Blue Jays clinched a post-season spot a few hours after their game finished on Saturday, a post-game celebration was planned for Sunday instead.
“You definitely want to feel the burn of that champagne in the eyes,” said Toronto outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. “That’s one of the best feelings. This is what you play for.”
The East Division champion Baltimore Orioles hold the top seed in the American League. Houston beat Arizona 8-1 on Sunday to secure the No. 2 seed as West Division champion.
The fourth-seeded Rays, who clinched a wild-card spot earlier in the week, will host Texas in the wild-card round. The Rangers dropped a 1-0 decision to Seattle in their finale.
Toronto could have finished as high as fifth depending on Sunday’s results.
“It’s been proven that it doesn’t matter what seed you are,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “It just depends on how you’re playing at the time.”
The Blue Jays originally pencilled in Kevin Gausman for Sunday’s start but can now choose to use him earlier in the wild-card series.
“He always comes out in those big spots,” said Toronto reliever Jordan Romano. “So that’s really big for us.”
Gausman, Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios are good bets to get the starting assignments. Toronto has a workout day Monday and is expected to release its playoff roster on Tuesday morning.
“We’ve got our foot in the door but there’s a lot of work yet to be done,” Kiermaier said.
The Blue Jays had their chances in a win-and-you’re-in game Saturday against the Rays. Tampa Bay scored three times in the 10th inning and Toronto answered with just one run in the bottom half.
“When we lost, I cried,” said Blue Jays fan Crystal Lefler. “But honestly, when we made the playoff cut, the sky (is) the limit. We’re going to (win it all) this year.”
Toronto was swept in the wild-card round in 2020 and 2022. The Blue Jays’ last playoff win came in 2016 when they reached the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.
Toronto won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2023.