Blue Jays roll into Game 162 with shot at WC

After record-setting day, Toronto is ready to create some havoc in the regular-season finale

October 3rd, 2021

TORONTO -- It has taken 161 games, three homes and a club-record 258 home runs, but it all comes down to the final day of the season for the Blue Jays.

Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Orioles was never close, with the Blue Jays launching five home runs to top the franchise record of 257 set in 2010. They’ve slugged their way to the finish line, and while Toronto still needs to win and get some help Sunday, the American League Wild Card race has turned into the best of the season.

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The Yankees lost, 12-2, to the Rays earlier Saturday, and the Red Sox earned a 5-3 win over the Nationals, meaning both teams are 91-70 and one game ahead of the Blue Jays and the Mariners (both 90-71) for the two Wild Card spots. With a 6-4 win Saturday night against the Angels, Seattle pulled even with Toronto. The Blue Jays will be eliminated with a loss Sunday, but with a win and a loss by either New York or Boston, they would earn a shot at a tiebreaker game on Monday, as could the Mariners. There's still a chance for a four-way tie for both Wild Cards.

got the derby started in the first inning with a Statcast-projected 450-foot shot to left field that just kept rising, eventually smacking off the facing of the 300 Level at Rogers Centre while another sellout crowd of 29,916 erupted. It was Guerrero’s 47th of the season, tying him with Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves (1953) for the most home runs by a player age 22 or younger.

took his turn, hitting No. 32 in the first, then hit his 20th of the season in the second and followed with his 29th in the fifth. It was who hit the record-setting homer, a two-run shot in the fifth.

“I told Teo and Vlad, one of the reasons we’re in this spot is because of what they’ve done all year,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “One is going to be a Silver Slugger, the other has a chance to be the MVP. Have fun, because you earned the right to be in this time at this moment.”

It has been a week of records for this lineup. Marcus Semien on Wednesday set the record for home runs by a second baseman with 44, and the Blue Jays became the first team since the 2003 Braves to have four players with 100 RBIs, something that hadn’t happened in club history. Springer’s 20th also gave the Blue Jays seven hitters with 20 home runs for the first time since they did it in ‘10. Only the ‘19 Twins, with eight, have had more.

“The rest of the guys look great. They look excellent,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “The power and the homers, I’m very happy about that. We want to continue to work and take this day by day, then see what happens.”

It’s conceivable that the Blue Jays take another run at this record in 2022. Losing Semien in free agency would be a major blow, but a full season from Springer could yield 40-plus home runs, and Hernández’s power potential is enormous. Like Montoyo and his players have said 1,000 times this season, their power is why you can never count the Blue Jays out of a game.

Toronto’s 258 home runs gives it an 18-homer lead over the Giants, who rank second in the Majors, while the Blue Jays’ .794 OPS tops MLB. Their 834 runs rank third, and they’ve hit for average along the way, with their .264 second only to the Astros (.265). On an individual level, Guerrero will enter the final day with a .311 average, tied with Michael Brantley and just shy of Yuli Gurriel (.316) for the AL batting title. It’s an opposing pitcher’s nightmare, but a teammate’s dream.

“It was amazing. I always just try to keep the game close to give them a chance,” said , who pitched seven dominant innings of one-run ball. “They showed today, like they have all year, that at any second they can put up four, five, 10 runs. For me, it’s just about getting zeros on the board and letting them hit as much as they can so that they can go do what they do best.”

Of the many scenarios that can play out Sunday, it will need to start with a Blue Jays win. Hyun Jin Ryu is on the mound, and this looks like a winnable game against the division-worst Orioles. But as has been the case all season, the Blue Jays will go as far as their historic offense takes them.