MLB

Blue Jays clinch AL's top wild-card spot, home-field advantage following rain-shortened win over O's

The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched the top wild-card seed in the American League and will play their first-round series at Rogers Centre starting Friday.

Toronto will play their 1st-round series at Rogers Centre starting Friday

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr., right, celebrates near the dugout with Teoscar Hernandez after hitting a solo home run against the Baltimore Orioles. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched the top wild-card seed in the American League and will play their first-round series at Rogers Centre starting Friday.

The Blue Jays locked up the spot Monday night when the Seattle Mariners dropped a 4-3 decision to the Detroit Tigers.

Toronto defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 earlier in the evening in a rain-shortened game.

Major League Baseball changed the wild-card format for this post-season. Three wild-card teams will make the cut in each league this year along with the three division winners.

The Blue Jays, seeded fourth in the American League, will host the fifth-seeded team — either the Mariners or the Tampa Bay Rays — in a best-of-three series. All games will be played in Toronto.

The winner will advance to play the top-seeded Houston Astros in the best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 11.

The sixth-seeded club will open against the No. 3 Cleveland Guardians on Friday in the other AL wild-card series. The winner will take on the No. 2 New York Yankees in the ALDS.

The division series winners will advance to the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. The winner of that series will play the National League champion in the World Series starting Oct. 28.

The Blue Jays last made the playoffs in 2020. Toronto was swept by the Rays in a wild-card series that year.

Toronto won World Series titles in 1992-93.

After winning the Fall Classic for the second time, the Blue Jays didn't return to the playoffs until 2015. Toronto reached the ALCS that year and returned to the final four in 2016.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 32nd homer in the victory over the Orioles.

"There was one singular focus today when the game did start and that was to win," Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. "You really can't say enough how they responded."

Whit Merrifield went 3 for 3 with an RBI for the Blue Jays, who have won for straight.

Before a crowd of just 10,642, Jose Berrios (12-7) allowed one run and three hits with five strikeouts and three walks over six innings.

"I thought we were going to have a delay but we started on time," Berrios said. "I just went there to compete and get that win for the team and we did it. The mound was wet and it was raining all night."

'I can do different things to help'

Tim Mayza earned his second save.

Baltimore's Jorge Mateo stole his American League-leading 35th base, one ahead of teammate Cedric Mullins.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead off Dean Kremer in the second on a single by Merrifield that scored Teoscar Hernandez and Matt Chapman.

Guerrero boosted the lead to 3-0 with a 422-drive over the left-field wall in the third. He became the fourth player in Blue Jays franchise history to hit at least 32 home runs at age 24 or younger.

The Orioles got the board in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Santander that Hernandez was able to snag with a running, leaping catch at the right-field fence.

A wild pitch by Kremer allowed Merrifield to score in the fifth as the Blue Jays increased the lead to 4-1.

"I can do different things to help and impact the game," Merrifield said. "It's nice that they're coming at big times for us."

Kremer (8-7) allowed four runs and six hits with four strikeouts and one walk over six innings. He ends the season with a 3.23 ERA over 21 starts.

The tarp is on the field during a rain delay in the eighth inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

'Not easy to play in'

Chapman added an RBI single in the eighth.

"Not easy to play in," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "Kind of a tough night all around. Wet, cold. Dean, it affected him a little bit. His stuff wasn't the same as it is normally."

Orioles catcher Adley Rustchman is the winner of the 2022 Most Valuable Oriole Award. Rutschman is the third rookie to win the award since its inception in 1954, joining right-handed pitchers Gregg Olson in 1989 and Rodrigo Lopez in 2002.

Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring strain) could be available when the post-season begins on Friday.

Orioles' Felix Bautista, who leads the team with 15 saves, has been shut down for the season with left knee soreness.

Blue Jays' Mitch White (1-6, 5.21) will start on Tuesday and has pitched against the Orioles once in his career, allowing five runs on three hits, two strikeouts and three walks over 2 1/3 innings last month.

Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.34 ERA) will start for the Orioles and is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in three appearances, including one start, against Toronto.

With files from The Associated Press

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