If the Toronto Blue Jays continue the all-around attack that led them to an 11-4 win over Tampa Bay on Friday, they will have a tough playoff exit.
All they have to do now is formally reserve their postseason ticket.
Toronto can clinch a wild card spot with another win over the Rays on Saturday. The Texas Rangers failed to do it for them as they lost 8-0 to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
With the odds firmly in favor of the Blue Jays, it appears to be just a matter of time.
“This is what we can do,” Toronto coach John Schneider said. “Everyone talks about our pitching and our defense. But this lineup can score some runs.
“Hopefully we can keep rolling.”
Alejandro Kirk, Brandon Belt and Matt Chapman homered for the Blue Jays, who outhit the Rays 16-7.
Bo Bichette had four hits and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three as Toronto (89-71) won for the ninth time in 13 games.
“Batting on time is a good thing,” Schneider said. “If you do that with guys on base and hit home runs, it’s a really good thing.”
Yandy Díaz was a bright spot for the Rays (97-63), who already clinched the first wild card spot and fourth place in the American League. He hit a two-run home run and reached base three times.
The Eastern champions, the Baltimore Orioles, have secured first place in the American League and the Central champions, the Minnesota Twins, will be third.
The Rangers have a one-game lead over Houston in the race for the Western Division crown and second place. The Astros, who beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 on Friday, are in the third wild card spot, one game behind Toronto and one game ahead of Seattle.
Several standings results and potential playoff matchups remained in place until the final weekend of the season.
The Rays started with most of their starters in front of a crowd of 42,394, even though the three-game series is essentially a tune-up for the playoffs.
Tampa Bay was aggressive from the start against Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi (11-6), who needed just five pitches to get the first three outs.
Tampa starter Aaron Civale (7-5) was pulled in the second inning after allowing Kirk’s eighth home run of the year and putting the next two runners on the run.
Zack Littell got out of trouble but struggled in the third when he gave up consecutive hits, a walk and a two-run single to Kirk that knocked out Guerrero and Bichette.
Cavan Biggio made it 4-0 when he trotted home on Kevin Kiermaier’s high sacrifice fly.
Center fielder Manuel Margot dropped a fly ball that allowed Chapman to reach second base and move Kirk to third. Littell escaped further damage by retiring Daulton Varsho and Springer.
Belt led off the bottom of the fourth inning with his 18th home run of the season and second in as many days.
Margot’s bad night continued later in the frame when she misjudged Biggio’s single, allowing the ball to roll into the wall. Bichette ran ahead of Biggio, who scored without shooting.
“It’s going to happen,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Sometimes those days, they just get you.”
Chapman went deep in the fifth inning for his 17th home run of the year. Diaz put Tampa on the board in the Rays’ four-run sixth with his 22nd home run.
The Blue Jays added insurance runs in the bottom half on Biggio’s two-run single. Toronto scored another run in the seventh.
Kikuchi allowed five hits and three earned runs in five-plus innings. He walked two and had four strikeouts.
Chad Green, Yimi García and Jay Jackson pitched in relief for Toronto. Pinch-hitter Cam Eden struck out in his first major league at-bat in the eighth inning.
The match lasted two hours and 45 minutes.
The Blue Jays plan to start Hyun Jin Ryu (3-3, 3.31 ERA) on Saturday afternoon. The Rays did not immediately name their starter.
Toronto’s Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.16) is scheduled to close out the season Sunday.