Blue Jays come out on top in playoff-style duel with Yankees

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Along the bumps of what could be seen as a sometimes frustratingly fluctuating season, the Blue Jays have found a rather effective coping mechanism.

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It has helped keep confidence high and competitiveness high. And it has them on the verge of earning a playoff berth, following a resounding 3-2 overtime win over the AL East-leading New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

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Playoff baseball anyone?

That’s how it’s starting to feel here as Vlad Guerrero Jr. snatched a hit to left field with two outs in the 10th inning, scoring Cavan Biggio from the second.

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With the win, the Jays not only denied their division rivals a shot at the division title, they lowered their magic number to secure a playoff berth at three.

The state of mind in the Jays clubhouse at the moment and for several weeks? Treat each game as a separate entity and each series as a must-have.

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As far as playoff-style baseball, like the one the team has been up against over the past few days, it could serve them pretty well.


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And the extra-innings tactical duel with the Yankees was the latest example as the Jays battled their way out of a 2-0 deficit, forced extras and seized the moment at the hands of one of their most dynamic bats.

« I know we believe in ourselves and in our fight, no matter the situation, » shortstop Bo Bichette said of the team’s locked gaze. « If this situation happens in the playoffs, I like our chances to compete and fight there. »

As a preview of what’s to come, Monday’s scene in front of a solid crowd of 34,307 in a closed-top Rogers Center had plenty.

There was the super-publicized presence of Yankees star Aaron Judge and his pursuit of a historic 61st homer.

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There was Judge’s Bronx Bombers about to clinch the AL East title.

And there were the Jays looking to further improve their chances of locking in not just a playoff spot (their magic number going into the night was four), but the top seed in the AL wildcard race.

It turned out to be quite a battle, a tantalizing trailer for the drama that lies ahead. It started with a great pitch as Jays starter Kevin Gausman allowed a run in each of the first two innings and nothing more before going out after 6.1 and Luis Severino answering for the Yankees.

As potential playoff previews roll in – and these two teams could meet as early as the second round – this one was a dandy, with a dramatic conclusion.

But back to that singular focus on each passing series. The Jays complete this three-way game against the Yanks on a run where they are undefeated in their last eight series (6-0-2).

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« This team is fighting and we’re playing good baseball, » Jays reliever David Phelps said. “We’re starting to make all the pieces work together and click together.

« This time of year you focus more on winning streaks. Obviously you focus on the game at hand, but if you focus on every three-player or four-four player, the goal is to keep this in the post-season.

It is also a pragmatic approach. At various points throughout the season, the Jays’ lack of starting depth showed, the bullpen took its pieces, and the bats piled on ice. But focusing on getting a win the next day for even a streak could serve them well.

« That’s been the collective perspective for days, months and weeks in a row, » Jays manager John Schneider said. “It’s a good thing to have a series of three, five or seven games for sure.

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“And if you get to that point, everything is amplified. Each location. Every play. Every at bat. You just try to keep doing what you’ve been doing and realize that you’re in this position for a reason and hopefully carry on with that mindset.


Complementing starter Gausman’s excellent night was some clutch work from the Toronto bullpen. A motorcade of five relievers made appearances, with the biggest efforts coming from Jordan Romano (who hit the team in the ninth) and Anthony Bass (who had a pair of Ks in the 10th).

And what a drama it was in that 10th, when Schneider went to Tim Mayza to relieve Bass and quickly launched an intentional march to Judge to charge the bases. A grounder ended it, however, setting the stage for Guerrero.

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  1. Toronto Blue Jays' Bo Bichette congratulates George Springer on his third inning home run that also scored Raimel Tapia (right) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    It’s George Springer’s time of the year and the Blue Jays are ready for the run after bombing Rays

  2. Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah (6) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning at Tropicana Field.

    Alek Manoah the man as Blue Jays score big win over Rays


More on Romano: The closest Canadian hit the side in the ninth – knocking out Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton and Oswaldo Cabrera… As the judge show hit the town, the Jays, led by starter Gausman, basically followed Schneider’s game plan for the man in search of his historic 61st homer – proceed with caution. As Judge slapped a single in the first, walked in the third and hit seeking (on a terrible call from plate umpire Laz Diaz in the sixth) and fell swinging to Yimi Garcia in the eighth … The big blast of the night for the Jays was a massive shot to right field from Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth that was inches from a grand slam. The brace (even with Hernandez admiring his work for four or five seconds too long) made a pair of runs and all the Jays scored in order.

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