The Toronto Blue Jays will try to move closer to earning the top American League wild-card spot Saturday afternoon by clinching their three-game series with the visiting Boston Red Sox.
The Blue Jays (88-69) won the series opener Friday night 9-0 to end a three-game winning streak by the Red Sox(75-82).
The Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot Thursday during an off-day on their schedule when the Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles.
The Blue Jays celebrated reaching the playoffs in the clubhouse after the game on Friday. Later they gathered on the field after the stands had emptied.
"I think whenever you have a chance to do that you have to embrace it," Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. "That doesn't happen all the time and I can't wait to have a good time with that group."
"All the hard work paid off,'' Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette said. "We put a lot in and we had high expectations of ourselves and we were able to accomplish it. There's still more work to do, obviously, and we expect more but we definitely need to enjoy this."
Bichette was 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI on Friday. He finished September with 48 hits, surpassing Tony Fernandez (47 in June 1986) and Lloyd Moseby (47 in August 1983) for the most hits in a calendar month in franchise history.
"Once we got back from the break, I think we started playing with a little more urgency," Schneider said. "This is a really talented team. Over the course of a few months, you kind of feel each other out. You see how you play together. The more they did that, the more they got comfortable with one another, and we've had different guys carry us at different times."
The Blue Jays will start right-hander Ross Stripling (9-4, 3.16 ERA) on Saturday. He is 3-3 with a 5.32 ERA in 10 career starts against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will start rookie right-hander Brayan Bello (2-7, 4.39 ERA). He is 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA in two career starts against Toronto.
The Red Sox are 23-48 against teams in the American League East and 3-14 against the Blue Jays.
The Red Sox placed right-hander Kaleb Ort on the restricted list Friday. He is not vaccinated against COVID-19, and was unable to travel with the club due to Canada's vaccination restrictions. The restrictions are scheduled to be lifted Saturday and Ort will rejoin the team.
Outfielder Jarren Duran took Ort's spot on the roster. Duran, who was optioned to Triple-A Worcester in August, started in center field and batted leadoff, going 1-for-4 on Friday. Duran was hitting .220/.283/.365 in 219 plate appearances before his demotion. Duran said he puts too much pressure on himself.
"I just take things too seriously," Duran said. "I was trying to make everybody happy when at the end of the day you have to make yourself happy and everybody else will support you."
With Ort's return Saturday, a move will be made. Duran was not certain whether that would involve him.
"I'm still learning to compete with these guys," Duran said. "I'm going to go out there and have some fun."
Duran's single was one of two hits against Toronto starter Alek Manoah on Friday. Manoah pitched six scoreless innings and has pitched 15 consecutive innings without allowing a run.
--Field Level Media