TORONTO -- The Blue Jays hope that starting next week, their road to the World Series winds through Toronto, Houston and a couple of other cities. Their road to the postseason, though, tore straight through Boston without a speed limit.
The Blue Jays completed their sweep of the Red Sox with a 6-3 win Sunday at Rogers Centre in their final home game of the season, but this division rivalry has been a year-long beatdown.
Toronto finished its season series with a 16-3 record against Boston, the most wins it has had against one opponent in a single season in club history. The Blue Jays outscored the Red Sox, 125-55, highlighted by their historic 28-5 win back on July 22, and out-hit them, 218-155. That’s the most hits the Blue Jays have recorded against one team in a single season.
Even if you made that record 12-7 against the Red Sox -- which the Blue Jays would be thrilled with most seasons -- this Wild Card race would look completely different. This series’ games have defined Toronto’s season.
Standings update: 90-69 (first AL Wild Card spot)
Games remaining: 3 (vs. Orioles)
AL Wild Card: The win moves the Blue Jays to 2 1/2 games up on the Mariners, who lost to the A's on Sunday, and four games ahead of the Rays, who lost to the Astros on Sunday.
Seeding battle: Toronto would lose the tiebreaker against both the Rays, who beat the Blue Jays, 10-9, in the season series, and the Mariners, who beat them, 5-2.
“I think our game plan against their really tough hitters has been great, and we’ve taken care of the baseball,” said manager John Schneider. “I think back to [Matt] Chapman’s play at Fenway, the backhanded flip double play. We’ve made some really good plays, like [Raimel] Tapia’s inside-the-park grand slam. Things have just been falling our way against a really good team. It’s also what our offense is capable of doing.”
Toronto’s only scare this weekend came after the third inning Sunday, when starter Kevin Gausman exited with a cut near the fingernail on his right middle finger, but the veteran is experienced in dealing with those cuts and blisters and expects to be just fine for the Wild Card Series. It’s a major relief for Toronto, given Gausman’s dominant potential with that devastating splitter.
“If this was a playoff game or if it was earlier in the year where the circumstances were a little different, he would have kept going,” Schneider said, “but we were just trying to play it a little bit safe.”
Gausman watched on as the Blue Jays’ bullpen covered six innings with ease, yet another encouraging arrow pointing towards the postseason for this club. Toronto celebrated its postseason clinch earlier this week, but to a man, their focus lies well beyond punching a ticket.
“I want to get to the World Series. I want to get to the big series,” Gausman said. “That’s what our goal is. Obviously, we know there are series before that, but that’s our goal and it’s been our goal since Day 1. We’re playing a really good brand of baseball right now. All we have to do is keep it going.”
Both Gausman and Schneider spoke of a lineup that’s clicking at the right time. Winning the World Series is about being baseball’s best team at a very specific time on the calendar, and if the Blue Jays can peak over the next few weeks, their peak can match any club in baseball.
Whit Merrifield is one of those peaking, stepping back into an everyday role and shining. The second baseman went 3-for-4 with a home run and a double Sunday, and after enjoying his first champagne celebration, he sees a clubhouse wanting more.
“Guys are hungry. They’re hungry not just to get to the playoffs, but to make a run,” Merrifield said. “We have the guys to do it, and we have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time and putting things together. We have to be sound in all facets of the game when Friday comes.”
The Blue Jays will close their season in Baltimore this week with a three-game series that opens with José Berríos and Mitch White on the mound. In a perfect world, the team is able to clinch home-field advantage ahead of Wednesday, allowing them to turn to Yusei Kikuchi and give some valuable rest to their regulars.
The Blue Jays would love another series against the Red Sox, but it’s these games that have set them up for whatever it is that comes next.