Jays win wild card slot on holiday, will celebrate Friday

TORONTO (AP) – The Toronto Blue Jays punched post-season tickets without getting to play, so the celebration will wait until Friday night.

The Blue Jays locked an AL wild card point the night before when Baltimore lost 5-3 in Boston.

“It was easy,” joked interim manager John Schneider Friday before Toronto hosted Boston. “It’s a bit strange. You become a Boston Red Sox fan for about three hours and then you turn it off. It’s different for sure, but whichever way you do it, doing it is the most important part.”

Schneider said the Blue Jays plan to celebrate in the clubhouse together after the game against the Red Sox.

“We expected more, but we definitely need to enjoy this,” said Blue Jays short-player Bo Bichette.

Schneider started watching Thursday’s game of Orioles on TV but felt uncomfortable at the end of the innings and decided to step outside for a walk. That’s what he was doing when his wife and two sons called from the family home in Florida, with wife Jess delivering each game of the final via FaceTime.

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“She was outstanding,” said Schneider. “She even knew that Cedric Mullins had a hit during the shift.”

Midfielder George Springer spent most of Thursday afternoon playing with his young son, but still watched the end of the Orioles game.

“Strange, but wonderful,” he said of the experience. “It just allows you to breathe a little bit. Obviously you might want to do it a little differently but, at the end of the day, who cares? It’s great to say that we’ll make it to the knockout stage no matter what. “

Springer had previous long-distance running experience. In 2018, the Springer and Houston Astros ended the AL West when, hours after beating the Blue Jays in Toronto, Oakland lost to Seattle.

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“It’s like three o’clock in the morning,” Springer said. “The whole team is asleep.”

The Blue Jays last made it to the knockouts during the 60-game 2020 pandemic season, but there were no fans in the stands as they beat the New York Yankees in Buffalo, New York, the Triple’s home ground -A Toronto.

Toronto has split the 2021 season into three locations: spring training stadiums in Dunedin, Florida, Buffalo and Toronto.

A crowd of about 45,000 is expected at the Rogers Center on Friday.

“It’s definitely different to do it in front of the fans and to have had the fans throughout a season with us here at the park,” Bichette said. “Definitely happy to enjoy it with them and hopefully end well so we have a chance to play against them.”

Toronto (87-69) has six games left, three against the Red Sox and three in Baltimore. The Blue Jays lead the Wild-card race against Seattle (85-70) and Tampa Bay (85-71). The team that tops the standings will host all three games of the wild card knockout.

“We have everything right in front of us, so the work doesn’t stop,” says Schneider.

Last season, the Blue Jays led 91-71 but finished a game in the playoffs, making this year’s season all the more gratifying.

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“It shows you that all the hard work, all the extra attention to the little things, works,” says Springer. “Obviously there’s still work to be done, but it’s something we have to hold our heads high and say we’ve accomplished our goal, which is to make things happen after the season.”


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