TORONTO — The New York Yankees returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence, clinching no worse than a wild card as Greg Bird's three-run homer led them over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 on Saturday.
Sonny Gray (10-11) allowed one run and four hits in six innings as the Yankees won for the 11th time in 14 games and at 86-68 matched their season high of 18 games over .500.
Led by Baby Bombers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, New York celebrated its 53rd postseason berth in a low-key manner on the field after former-Yankee Rob Refsnyder hit a game-ending groundout off Aroldis Chapman, then sprayed bubbly in the visitors' clubhouse.
Unless New York overcomes Boston's four-game lead the AL East, the Yankees would play in the AL wild card game on Oct. 3, most likely against Minnesota. New York lost the wild card matchup to Houston 3-0 at home two years ago and has not won a postseason game since Derek Jeter broke an ankle in the 2012 AL Championship Series opener against Detroit.
Minnesota started the night with a 3½-game lead over Texas for the second wild card and has been eliminated by the Yankees in four of its last five postseason appearances.
Toronto was eliminated with the loss after consecutive losses in the AL Championship Series.
Bird, who spent much of the year sidelined and hampered by a right ankle injury, connected in the fifth off Joe Biagini (3-12) for his sixth home run of the season and third in seven games. Todd Frazier, among the Yankees' July reinforcements, homered against Tim Mayza in the eighth, and Starlin Castro added an RBI single off Luis Santos in the ninth.
Gray, acquired from Oakland at the trade deadline, improved to 4-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts with the Yankees. Chad Green, David Robertson and Chapman each retired three straight batters, with Chapman getting his 21st save in 25 chances.
Judge struck out twice and raised his season total to 201, becoming the sixth player to strike out 200 or more times in a season after Mark Reynolds (223 in 2009, 211 in 2010 and 204 in 2008), Adam Dunn (222 in 2012), Chris Davis (219 last year and 208 in 2015), Chris Carter (212 in 2013 and 206 last year) and Drew Stubbs (2005 in 2011). Judge also set a rookie record, breaking Kris Bryant's 199 times in 2015.
Sanchez failed to hustle out of the batter's box on his leading drive in the ninth, which bounced off the glove of a leaping center fielder Kevin Pillar at the wall and went for a double.
Teoscar Hernandez homered in the third, but Biagini allowed three runs, three hits and four walks in five innings, falling to 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA in six starts since rejoining Toronto's rotation on Aug. 27.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino, New York's likely starter in the wild card game, was hit on the back of his left shoulder by a line drive while the Blue Jays were taking batting practice but didn't appear to suffer a serious injury. ... RHP Adam Warren (back) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and is scheduled to throw again in a simulated game Tuesday. Warren could be activated after that if there are no issues. ... OF Aaron Hicks (strained left oblique) had five at-bats in a simulated game at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Florida.
LHP Jaime Garcia (1-2 in AL, 5-9 overall) starts Sunday for the Yankees and is winless in seven starts with New York. RHP Marcus Stroman (12-8) starts for Toronto and has a 2.18 ERA in four September starts. He is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season.