The Toronto Blue Jays will open a three-game home series with the Boston Red Sox on Friday night knowing that they have clinched a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays, who had Thursday off, wrapped up an American League wild-card berth when the Red Sox defeated the visiting Baltimore Orioles 5-3 on Thursday afternoon. J.D. Martinez hit a two-run home run in the eighth to propel the Red Sox to their third consecutive win.
The Blue Jays (87-69) are still trying to clinch the No. 1 wild-card spot that would give them home-field advantage for all games in the best-of-three opening playoff round.
Toronto, which is coming off two straight losses to the New York Yankees, holds a 1 1/2-game lead on the Seattle Mariners (85-70) and a two-game edge on the Tampa Bay Rays (85-71) in the wild-card chase.
Following his game-ending single Monday night against the visiting Yankees, Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. proclaimed: "This is my house. My house."
The Yankees answered on the field, winning the final two games of the three-game series and delaying the Blue Jays' playoff-clinching moment until Thursday.
With a 5-2 at Toronto on Tuesday, the Yankees clinched first place in the American League East.
Guerrero helped the Yankees' cause with a baserunning mistake, running too slowly to first as he admired his drive to left that hit the wall. He picked up his tempo too late to avoid being thrown out trying for a double, squelching a promising rally. The play drew criticism from interim Blue Jays manager John Schneider.
The Yankees won 8-3 on Wednesday in a game that featured Aaron Judge's 61st home run of the season, tying the American League record.
During the Yankees series, the Blue Jays continued to make mistakes that have cropped up in what some think has been an underachieving season. They opened with high expectations based on their 91 wins in 2021.
"If we take care of little things that we can control, we usually are in a good spot to win," Schneider said. "We're very talented, and when we play clean and take care of things that should be taken care of, physical errors aside, we're just as good as anybody in the league."
The Blue Jays will start right-hander Alek Manoah (15-7, 2.31 ERA) on Friday. In five career starts against Boston, he is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA. He is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two outings vs. the Red Sox this year.
Boston will start right-hander Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.48 ERA). He is 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in 10 career starts against Toronto, 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA in three starts vs. the Blue Jays this season.
The Red Sox (75-81) had planned to bring back second baseman Trevor Story, likely in their final series of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays that begins Monday. Story sustained a left heel contusion on Sept. 11 in Baltimore.
However, Story has an illness and won't be able to travel with the Red Sox to Toronto. Red Sox manager Alex Cora feels that Story's season is over.
"I think obviously this is it for him," Cora said. "There's not much he's going to do over the weekend. He's a good player. He is. You see the record when he played and when he didn't play. Just the impact, driving in runs or playing good defense, he's legit. He's gonna help us to win a lot of games in the upcoming years."
In 94 games this season, Story has a .238 average with 16 homers and 66 RBIs.
--Field Level Media