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Blue Jays set to play Twins in wild-card round

Blue Jays Blue Jays celebrate - The Canadian Press
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TORONTO (AP) — Most of the Toronto Blue Jays were watching from couches at home when their team clinched a playoff spot.

Toronto earned an AL wild card for the second straight season when Seattle lost 6-1 to Texas on Saturday night.

“It was great,” said All-Star closer Jordan Romano, who was at home with his wife. “It was like, ‘Wow, for one day in the past six months I can get a good night of sleep, no stress.’ It felt great. All the boys were texting. They were super happy. It was a good night.”

After the Rangers put together a four-run third inning against Luis Castillo, Romano felt confident enough to take his dog for a walk.

“Came back, the score was still the same,” he said.

Outfielder George Springer said he and his wife were too busy packing and trying to put their two children to bed for him to watch much of the Rangers-Mariners game, but he did tune in for the final inning.

“To know that we’re in is a relief,” Springer said. “It was huge, it was awesome. I’m happy for everybody.”

The Blue Jays were swept at home by the Mariners in the wild-card round last year. They also earned a wild card in 2020 and were swept in that postseason appearance as well, losing to the Rays.

This time, sixth-seeded Toronto will play at AL Central champion Minnesota in a best-of-three series beginning Tuesday. Toronto hasn’t won a postseason game since losing to Cleveland in five games in the 2016 AL Championship Series.

“We’re clicking at the right time,” outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “Guys are feeling healthy. Playoffs gives you that extra adrenaline, that boost that you need, and we’re ready to go on Tuesday.”

Toronto’s playoff fortunes looked dim after a four-game home sweep against the Rangers in early September. The Blue Jays responded with a five-game winning streak, sparked by a three-game sweep of Boston, to gain the final AL wild card.

“After the Texas series, George came around to everyone, every single guy that was in here, and told them not to give up, keep going,” Romano said. “That meant a lot coming from him.”

With its deep pitching staff and elite defense, Blue Jays manager John Schneider said he thinks his team is built for the playoffs.

“The getting there was hard,” Schneider said. “I feel like now that we’re there, no matter who we’re playing, we feel really confident.”

Seattle’s loss Saturday meant the Blue Jays didn't need to use right-hander Kevin Gausman on the season’s final day and could line him up for a Game 1 start Tuesday.

“That’s amazing,” Romano said. “One of the best pitchers in the game. Having him start Game 1, that’s going to be huge for us. He always comes out in those big spots.”

Gausman is 12-9 with a 3.16 ERA in 31 starts. He went 1-0 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts against the Twins this season.

“He’s been our ace all year,” Springer said. “He’s been a horse. He deserves every bit of starting the first game for us.”

Toronto held a clubhouse celebration following Sunday’s loss to the Rays.

“It’s always different in your home clubhouse,” Kiermaier said. “You don’t want to trash the place too much. At the same time, you work the whole year to pop champagne. We want to have that moment."

Still, with the wild-card round less than 48 hours away, Kiermaier acknowledged that Toronto’s postgame party might be slightly muted.

“We all want to spray each other with champagne and pour beer on each other,” he said. “But at the same time, we have a game in two days and guys know what they need to do. They’ll be smart about letting their bodies recover. But I definitely want to feel the burn of that champagne in the eyes. That’s one of the best feelings.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb