Things looked bleak for the Toronto Blue Jays a few weeks ago when they were emphatically swept by the visiting Texas Rangers.
The four-game losing streak left Toronto below the wild-card cutoff line.
That’s when Blue Jays outfielder George Springer, a playoff veteran and 2017 World Series champion, showed off his leadership skills in the clubhouse.
“George went up to every single guy that was here and told them not to give up and to keep going,” Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano said. “That meant a lot coming from him.
“I think the guys we have, their character, definitely helped us stay the course.”
The Blue Jays responded with wins in seven of their next nine games. Toronto booked its playoff berth on Saturday night and will play the Twins in Minnesota in a best-of-three wild card series beginning Tuesday at 4:38 p.m. ET.
“I’ll keep him home, but I’ll let the guys know to move on,” Springer said. “I mean, that’s baseball, things like that are going to happen. We answered the bell and here we are.”
Securing a playoff spot before Sunday’s season finale, a 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay in a playoff tuneup game, allowed the Blue Jays to save Kevin Gausman for the Twins.
Getting to the playoffs ‘was tough’
He’s a good bet to get a starting assignment along with Chris Bassitt and former Twins starter José Berríos. The Blue Jays will likely release their playoff roster Tuesday morning.
“Trust is very high in the clubhouse between the guys and the staff,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “I felt like we just needed to get in. Getting there was tough.
“So going forward, this team is built for the playoffs between pitching, defense and offense.”
Minnesota (87-75) and Toronto (89-73) split their six regular-season meetings. Each team won twice on the road and once at home.
The Twins, who won the Central Division title, will host all games against the Blue Jays. Toronto was 46-35 on the road this season and 43-38 at Rogers Centre.
The winner will play the second-seeded Houston Astros in a best-of-five American League Division Series.
“We’ve played a little better on the road, which is a little strange for this season,” Schneider said Sunday at Rogers Centre. “But we’re going to work hard to get here and play here.”
Toronto’s last playoff victory came in 2016, when the Blue Jays reached the American League Championship Series for the second straight year. The Blue Jays were swept in the wild card round last year and in 2020.
“Baseball is difficult and this [East] The division is tough,” Schneider said. “I think getting here probably takes a lot of weight off the players’ shoulders. Looking back at spring training, there were very high expectations.
“People can say we either met them or we didn’t meet them, but the fact that we’re in it, I think the guys really like that. They’re looking forward to it because of how good they are.”
The Rays will host the Texas Rangers in the American League’s other wild card series. The winner will face the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles.
The winners of the ALDS will advance to the American League Championship Series. The winner of that best-of-seven series will play the National League champion in the World Series beginning Oct. 27.
“We’re capable of lifting that trophy at the end of the year, I know that,” Kevin Kiermaier said. “We have all the talent on paper. We have shown that we can play with the best teams.
“We just have to go out when the bright lights come on and play our game.”