Blue Jays clinch playoff spot in unexpected fashion

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista celebrates with teammate Edwin Encarnacion after hitting a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – The post-season drought for the Toronto Blue Jays came to an end Friday night thanks to their 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays combined with the Minnesota Twins’ loss to the Detroit Tigers and a convoluted scenario set up by the remaining AL West schedule.

The Blue Jays entered play with a magic number of two to clinch at least a wild card berth and narrowed that down to one with their win. They then needed both the Twins, who fell 6-4, and Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Seattle Mariners 8-4, to lose.

While that didn’t happen, it turns out only two of the Rangers, Astros and Angels can finish at 88-74 – the record the Blue Jays would end up with if they lost all nine of their remaining games – because of the trio’s head-to-head games with one another.

The Rangers and Astros play twice more, while the Rangers and Angels have four games left. That means one of the AL West teams must lose 75 games or more.

If two of those teams tied at 88-74, one would win the AL West after a tiebreaker, while the other would claim a wild card along with the Blue Jays or Yankees.

Clinching a post-season berth was an inevitability for the Blue Jays, but for fans waiting two decades to be part of the playoffs again, the wait is over – a wild card game, at worst, is here.

The Blue Jays have a four-game lead and a magic number of six to claim the American League East over the New York Yankees heading into Saturday’s action. They’re also one game back of the Kansas City Royals, 6-0 losers to Cleveland, for the AL’s best record.