The Toronto Blue Jays, who are going to the postseason for the first time since 2016, still have a chance to finish second in the American League East as they open a three-game series against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Friday night at Buffalo.
The Blue Jays (30-27) clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday night.
By winning three times in the four-game series at Buffalo, the Blue Jays moved to within two games of the second-place Yankees, who will finish their regular season with three games against the Miami Marlins.
The Orioles (24-33) are coming off a 13-1 road victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday and have been eliminated from a chance at the playoffs.
The Orioles still have a chance for a winning road record with a sweep of the Blue Jays. They are 11-13 on the road. Toronto, however, holds a 6-1 advantage over Baltimore this season.
If the Blue Jays remain as the eighth seed, they would play the Tampa Bay Rays, who have clinched first in the AL East, in the best-of-three first-round playoff series.
“I’ve got a feeling that no one wants to play us because we’re a young, energetic team that’s going to be ready to roll,” Blue Jays pitcher Ross Stripling said. “We’re not going to be intimidated by anybody.”
Stripling has had postseason experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Toronto acquired him in a trade on Aug. 31.
“We’re going to challenge anyone,” Stripling said. “You’re not going to intimidate us, and our guys are going to show up ready to play, full of energy, excited and in attack mode.”
“Credit to our kids, they didn’t press,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “They played relaxed. … I’m really proud of my team for being in this spot with everything we’ve gone through.”
The Blue Jays have activated rookie right-hander Nate Pearson (elbow) from the injured list and designated right-hander Wilmer Font for assignment. Pearson likely will be tested against Baltimore.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86 ERA) will likely start Friday for Toronto. He faced Baltimore in his Toronto debut on Aug. 29, allowing four hits and no runs in six innings. He is 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in five career starts against Baltimore.
The Orioles are expected to counter with reliever Jorge Lopez (2-1, 5.11 ERA), who will be making his sixth start this season. Lopez has allowed 12 runs, nine earned, in four starts in the month of September.
Lopez made one start against the Blue Jays this season on Aug. 30, giving up three runs and three hits but didn’t get a decision in 4 2/3 innings, and for his career, he is 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA against Toronto in four appearances, two starts.
With right-hander Dean Kremer’s season over after his start Wednesday, the Orioles optioned him to their alternate training site and recalled reliever David Hess from the taxi squad.
It was the third pitcher they have added this week. Shawn Armstrong came off the injured list Tuesday to replace Dillon Tate (pinky finger sprain) and Branden Kline coming off the IL to replace Evan Phillips (elbow). Armstrong pitched a scoreless eighth inning Thursday.
The Orioles offense that had eight runs in its previous five games broke out with a 13-run run, 18-hit outburst against the Red Sox.
“I think we haven’t swung the bat very well the last couple of weeks, but that happens with every team throughout a season,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday. “I think there are some guys that I’ve seen improvement, especially the first 30 games where they’ve shown that they can do some things. We have a couple of guys going through some rough patches. We’re trying to finish the season strong, and probably trying too hard in some ways.”
–Field Level Media