TORONTO – The mood remained upbeat in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse on Saturday despite missing a chance to clinch a playoff berth.
It helped that Toronto was still in charge of its playoff destiny. But a 7-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays has certainly added to the pressure with one day left in the regular season.
“It’s hectic, stressful and all that kind of stuff, but that’s why you play,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “That’s why you play 162 (games). In fact we are doing it. We are playing 162 for a reason. It’s exciting, there are ups and downs, back and forth, all that kind of stuff.
“But at the end of the day we control our own destiny, so that part feels really good.”
Tampa Bay’s Taylor Walls hit a two-run single off Jordan Hicks in the 10th inning to silence the sold-out crowd of 42,097 at Rogers Center. The Rays added another run on an infield single by Junior Caminero.
Chris Devenski (6-4) gave up an RBI double to Bo Bichette in the bottom half before getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout as Toronto’s magic number for insurance remained at one.
“We’re going out there and trying to cause some chaos right now,” Rays right fielder Josh Lowe said. “It is fun”.
The Blue Jays (89-72) remain a good bet to make the postseason. Toronto can clinch a spot later on Saturday if the Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners.
The Blue Jays will have another chance to win and be in against the Rays in the final game of the regular season and other results on Sunday could also go Toronto’s way.
Harold Ramírez homered for the Rays (98-63), who outhit Toronto 14-7.
Daulton Varsho homered and drove in three runs for the Blue Jays. Starter Hyun Jin Ryu lasted a season-low three innings.
“I think they were really focused on trying to make contact and because of that they were sometimes able to make difficult contact,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “That probably happened because my command wasn’t there.”
If the Blue Jays make the postseason, they would open the best-of-three series Tuesday at Minnesota or Tampa Bay.
The Rays, meanwhile, are in tune-up mode after clinching the first of three American League wild card spots earlier in the week.
Tampa Bay gave starter Shawn Armstrong the start and six relievers followed him on a bullpen day.
“The priority is for us to feel good about ourselves,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
There’s still a good chance these teams will meet next week at Tropicana Field. The Rangers, Mariners and Houston Astros were also in contention for American League playoff spots that will come into play later Saturday.
The Eastern Division champions, the Baltimore Orioles, have secured first place in the American League and the Minnesota Twins, champions of the Central, will be third.
Toronto’s Kevin Gausman will likely start in Sunday’s series finale unless the Blue Jays get the win later Saturday.
Randy Arozarena nearly missed a home run with a one-out double in the first inning. Isaac Paredes pushed him to open the scoring.
Ryu wasn’t ready but managed to avoid giving up a big tackle. Tampa Bay added another run in the third when Lowe doubled to bring home Ramirez.
Being trending now
Varsho responded with a solo shot no doubt. His 20th home run of the season landed in the 200 level, just inside the right field foul screen.
He drove in two more runs in Toronto’s three-run fourth inning.
Trevor Richards allowed a two-run homer to Ramirez in the fifth that tied the game.
The Rays threatened in the sixth with runners on the corners, but Erik Swanson got Arozarena to hit into a double play.
Yimi García worked a clean seventh inning for Toronto.
Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., normally used in a closing role, came in at the eighth. He gave up a two-out double before Walls flied out.
Hicks (3-9) also pitched the ninth inning. George Springer hit a two-out double in the bottom half, but was stranded when Cavan Biggio lined out.
The Blue Jays have been swept in the wild card round in two of the last three years. Toronto missed the playoffs in 2021.
The Blue Jays’ last postseason victory came in 2016, when they reached the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive year.
Toronto won World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
The Blue Jays will have a chance to win a season series over the Rays for the first time since 2017 with a victory on Sunday.
The teams have split 12 head-to-head matchups so far. The Blue Jays were 10-9 against the Rays six years ago.
The Rays have yet to confirm their starter for Sunday afternoon.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2023.
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