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Welcome to Blue Jays Wild Card Watch, a daily snapshot of where Toronto stands in relation to its rivals in the playoff race. Each morning we'll briefly recap the previous night's action and tee up what comes next.
What looked like an easy victory for the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles quickly became a nervous finish.
Toronto held on for a 6-4 win but Baltimore made it a nail-biter with a four-run eighth inning that saw the tying runs stranded at second and third base. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo had to bring in closer Jordan Romano for a multi-inning, 32-pitch save, which could impact his availability for the rest of the weekend.
Nonetheless, a win is a win and the Blue Jays lived to fight another day, sitting one game back of a playoff spot with two contests remaining in the regular season.
Alek Manoah (3.35 ERA) starts for the Blue Jays on Saturday in what is once again essentially a must-win game. If Toronto loses and the Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals, that's curtains on the 2021 campaign.
The Orioles aren't going to just roll over, especially considering they have some bad blood with Manoah from earlier this year. All-star southpaw John Means (3.32 ERA) takes the hill in his first start against the Blue Jays this season.
Toronto has to take care of its own business, but scoreboard watching is absolutely essential at this time of year, so here's what's going on with the Blue Jays' rivals.
New York Yankees
Last night's result: The Yankees staged a late rally against the Tampa Bay Rays but couldn't complete the comeback, falling 4-3. New York's hold on the top wild-card spot is suddenly down to just one game with two to play.
Tonight's matchup: Tampa Bay is throwing another tantalizing young pitcher at the Bronx Bombers, with blue-chip prospect Shane Baz (1.69 ERA) making his third MLB start. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (3.49 ERA) counters for the Yankees. Montgomery has enjoyed success against the Rays in 2021, pitching to a 3.18 ERA over five starts.
A win Saturday combined with a Red Sox loss would clinch the Yankees the first wild-card spot.
Boston Red Sox
Last night's result: It took more than five innings, but the Red Sox finally broke through against Nationals starter Josh Rogers in a 4-2 interleague road win. Back-to-back homers from Hunter Renfroe and Bobby Dalbec provided all the offence.
Tonight's matchup: Red Sox manager Alex Cora has not yet named his starting pitcher, while the Nationals send promising youngster Josiah Gray (5.85 ERA) to the mound. Gray was part of the return from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner deal and he has the weapons to neutralize the Red Sox if he's locked in.
Last night's result: The Mariners scored a run in the second inning but couldn't muster anything the rest of the way as they narrowly fell to the Los Angeles Angels, 2-1. Seattle threatened several times against Angels relievers but couldn't come up with the key hit, slipping out of a playoff spot in the process.
Tonight's matchup: Chris Flexen (3.67 ERA) looks to get the Mariners back on track when he opposes Angels starter Jhonathan Diaz (3.12 ERA). Diaz is making just his second start at the MLB level, but the first was a seven-inning, one-run gem against these same Mariners on Sept. 25. Blue Jays fans will certainly be hoping for an encore performance.
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