BOSTON -- It took until the final game of the regular season, but the Blue Jays are going back to the postseason for the second consecutive year.
Toronto officially clinched the top American League Wild Card spot with a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays will host the Orioles in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, with the winner moving on to face Texas in the AL Division Series. The AL Wild Card Game vs. Baltimore is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet (English) and RDS (French) in Canada and TBS in the United States.
"We don't do things easy, that's for sure," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I'm proud of this group. It wasn't easy, but you know, maybe this is a better way to head into the playoffs -- battle-tested. You come into these three games here, you knew it wasn't going to be easy. You'll have to play low-scoring games, come out on top -- something that's been an Achilles' heel a little bit."
Boston's loss meant it will have to open the AL Division Series on the road Thursday in Cleveland at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. If the Red Sox had won on Sunday, the Indians would have been forced to play a makeup game on Monday against the Tigers.
"We've met a lot of challenges along the way, including what we've been able to do on the road," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I wouldn't say that this series is a lost opportunity. We played tough. We set out to win each of these three games here. But we've been able to win on the road. And that's where our postseason journey begins."
The Blue Jays entered play on Sunday with the ability to control their own fate. A win meant they would be in the postseason, but a loss would have created the possibility of a potential tiebreaker situation. In the end, it didn't matter as the Tigers, who were 1 1/2 games back in the standings, lost, 1-0, to Atlanta, but the Toronto win made sure it would host the AL Wild Card Game after Baltimore picked up a 5-2 victory over New York.
Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez led the way by carrying a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning. He allowed a pair of walks and hit one batter up to that point, but his chance at making Toronto history came to an end when Hanley Ramirez hit a solo shot to left field, which was confirmed after review and tied the game at 1. Dave Stieb remains the only pitcher in Blue Jays history to toss a no hitter.
Second baseman Devon Travis hit a solo home run for Toronto, while shortstop Troy Tulowitzki drove in the go-ahead run during the top of the eighth with an RBI single. Relievers Brett Cecil, Joe Biagini and Roberto Osuna then took it the rest of the way, and the reward is a trip back to Toronto for a home game against division-rival Baltimore.
"I knew what this feeling was like from last year and I wasn't ready to go home," Sanchez said. "We worked too hard for it to come to an end like this. … It's huge what we accomplished, but it's not over. All those crazy nights, to have it shape out the way it did is pretty incredible."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rising to the occasion: Runs were coming at a premium for the Blue Jays once again on Sunday afternoon and hitting with runners in scoring position has been an issue for the last month, but Tulowitzki found a way to get it done when Toronto needed him the most. With runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh inning, Tulowitzki fought off an 83-mph sinker from reliever Brad Ziegler and lifted it just over the head of second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
"At times I'm emotional, but usually I'm pretty straight-faced, all business, but that was fun," Tulowitzki said. "I knew it was a key hit. … Bottom line, when I came here I talked about winning. Now we've made two appearances in two years."
Papi's last hurrah -- sort of:David Ortiz's farewell weekend at Fenway wrapped up in grand fashion, as the Red Sox held a stirring pregame ceremony which included the announcement that No. 34 will be retired to the facade in right field next season. Ortiz got emotional during various parts of the ceremony. Ortiz went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and he got a big ovation when he ran back to the dugout after his final out, a tapper to the catcher in the ninth.
"More than what I expected," said Ortiz. "It was unbelievable. I wasn't expecting so much. This organization is something I will never forget. Everything went better than perfect. I just want to thank everybody that was involved in it, everybody that did something for it. It was very special, very special." More >
Travis time: Travis stepped up in a big way for the Blue Jays in the top of the fifth inning. The 25-year-old second baseman lifted an 0-1 offering from David Price and sent it over the Green Monster in left field for a solo home run. According to Statcast™, Travis' 11th of the season was went a projected distance of 352 feet and left his bat at 98 mph. It was Travis' first home run since Aug. 6 vs. Kansas City.
"A lot of good things happened today," Gibbons said. "A lot of guys stepped up, a lot of young kids. It bodes well for the organization down the road. Some key things. It wasn't easy getting in, but the key is to get in and then see what happens."
Price tunes up with solid outing: Price was solid in his final tune-up for Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Indians, allowing four hits and a run over five innings. The lefty walked three and struck out four. In his first season with the Red Sox, Price finished 17-4 with a 3.99 ERA.
"I feel good. I feel strong. Body feels good. I'm good mentally, I'm ready to take it to the next step," said Price.
"We spent 40 minutes prior to the game today celebrating what he's meant to this city, this organization, to his teammates, to championship teams that have been here over the last 12 years. Those are types of personalities and performers that you just don't readily replace. A celebration today that was well-deserved and glad we were all a witness to it." -- Farrell, on Ortiz More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sanchez finished the year with two losses, which is the fewest by a Toronto starting pitcher with 30 or more starts in franchise history. He's one of four Blue Jays starters to go a full season with no more than one loss on the road. The others were Roy Halladay (2002), Stieb (1990) and Frank Castillo (2000).
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will host the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre against the Orioles. Marcus Stroman will start for Toronto, while Baltimore will counter with Chris Tillman.
Red Sox: The Red Sox will play the Indians on the road in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on TBS on Thursday. Right-hander Rick Porcello gets the start. He'll be opposed by righty Trevor Bauer.
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