Series Preview: Blue Jays, Rays could meet again in wild-card round

Hazel Mae and Shi Davidi break down the Toronto Blue Jays' 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees, discussing Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s pinch-hit appearance, hustle, and how both are good signs for the team moving forward.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays will see a lot of each other over the next 10 days.

They might spend even more time battling it out come playoff time.

If the season ended today, the two teams would be back in Tampa for the wild-card round.

The second-place finisher in the wild-card race (currently Toronto) will almost certainly travel to face the second-place finisher in the AL East (currently Tampa) — also the top wild-card team.

For now, though, we have a weekend series in Tampa and then a season-ending series next weekend at Rogers Centre.

Here’s a look at the first series.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, 6:40 p.m. ET / 3:40 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Chris Bassitt (14-8, 3.78 ERA) vs. Tampa RHP Tyler Glasnow (9-6, 3.53 ERA)

Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET / 1:10 p.m. PT: Toronto LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (3-3, 2.62 ERA) vs. Tampa RHP Zack Littell (3-6, 4.12 ERA)

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET / 10:10 a.m. PT: Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (10-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. Tampa RHP Taj Bradley (5-7, 5.36 ERA)

All games on Sportsnet and Sportsnet Plus.

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays (85-68) are just a half-game up on the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners for the second spot in the American League wild-card race after losing 5-3 in the series finale against the New York Yankees on Thursday.

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The good news for the Jays is the Rangers and Mariners square off this weekend, so Toronto can gain significant ground in the playoff race by winning this series in Tampa.

The loss Thursday snapped Toronto’s five-game win streak.

Cy Young favourite Gerrit Cole held the Blue Jays to one run on two hits over eight innings. Cole, who has given up just one run in three starts against Toronto this season, is scheduled to face the Blue Jays again next week.

Jake Bauers hit a three-run homer off Jose Berrios in the first inning and the Yankees led the rest of the way.

Blue Jays all-star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was out of the starting lineup for a second game in a row with right knee inflammation, but he pinch-hit in the ninth and beat out a potential game-ending double play.

Latest on the Rays

Despite losing four members of their season-opening starting rotation and outfielders Luke Raley and Jose Siri to injury, along with star shortstop Wander Franco (on administrative leave as Dominican authorities investigate alleged relationships with minors), the Rays (94-60) remain in the hunt for the top seed in the American League.

However, the Rays’ chances of overtaking the Baltimore Orioles for first in the AL East are not great. They are 1.5 games back and do not own the tiebreaker.

Tampa is 8.5 games ahead of Toronto, and one Rays win this weekend means the Blue Jays can’t get the first wild-card spot.

The Rays won two of three against the visiting Los Angeles Angels this week, including a 5-4 walk-off victory on Thursday afternoon thanks to a Manuel Margot single.

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The Rays’ bullpen has completely transformed to become one of the most dangerous in baseball after starting the season as a weakness.

Zach Eflin, the only remaining member of the Rays’ season-opening rotation, will not face the Jays after earning a no-decision on Thursday. He is 15-8 with a 3.44 ERA.

Out of Town

The Rangers and Mariners begin a three-game series in Texas on Friday. It’s the first of seven games between the teams over the next 10 days.

The Houston Astros, who are a half-game ahead of the Mariners and the Rangers for the lead in the AL West, entertain the lowly Kansas City Royals this weekend.

The Orioles are in Cleveland for a series against the playing-out-the-string Guardians, but Baltimore lost the opener on Thursday.

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Tropicana Trouble

The Blue Jays are traditionally bad in this ballpark — they enter the series with a record of 88-133 all-time in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Blue Jays fans will be happy to know the Rays have plans for a new stadium to open in 2028.

Season Series

The Blue Jays are 3-4 against the Rays this season. Toronto won two of three against the visiting Rays in April to end Tampa’s season-opening 13-game win streak before dropping three of four in Tampa in May.

Wins Race

Eflin is one win ahead of Toronto’s Bassitt, New York’s Cole, Luis Castillo of the Mariners and Kyle Gibson of the Orioles for the wins lead in the AL.

Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves leads the majors with 18 wins.

Big Promotion

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday the Rays are calling up 20-year-old infielder Junior Caminero from double-A Montgomery.

The top prospect started the year in Class A. He is hitting .324/.384/.591 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs in 117 minor-league games this season.

Up Next

After their final off-day of the season on Monday, the Blue Jays open their last homestand of the year with a three-game series against the Yankees.

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