George Springer was napping on the couch during Thursday’s day off, while the Boston Red Sox were doing his Blue Jays a favour.
The slugging outfielder spent the Jays’ rare off-day with his wife and young son, and the little boy had worn out his big-league dad. Springer woke up just in time to watch the last couple of innings online, as the Bosox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3, which assured Toronto a postseason berth.
With Blue Jays players enjoying a rest day, they didn’t get to celebrate together Thursday. There were lots of texts in their team group chat, but they chose to save their celebration until after Friday night’s game, the first of three against Boston, in their final homestand.
“Everybody was excited about it. I mean, this is awesome. You know, this is what you play for,” said Springer, a World Series champion with the Houston Astros, who will play in his first playoffs as a Blue Jay. “I’ve played with guys, spoken to guys, who have played five, 10, 15 years and never got a chance to play one postseason game … you always kind of take a second and step back and learn to appreciate how special it actually is.”
Interim manager John Schneider said he was out for a walk along Toronto’s waterfront in the late innings of that Red Sox win on Thursday. His wife called and gave him some play-by-play of the finish. Then he and other coaches marked the occasion out for dinner.
“I tried to slow it down a little bit and just understand the magnitude of it, realize how much you appreciate being where you are with the group of people that are here,” said Schneider, who took over the job in July.
It’s the ninth time in franchise history that the Blue Jays have qualified for the postseason. They missed the 2021 playoffs by one game. In 2020, they clinched in front of no fans at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, and then the Tampa Bay Rays swept them 2-0 in the wildcard series at Tropicana Field.
In this last week of the regular season, the Jays are battling for playoff seeding. If Toronto maintains its grip on the first of three American League wild-card spots (ahead of Tampa and the Seattle Mariners), they would play the best-of-three wildcard series entirely at Rogers Centre. The second and third wild-card teams will play on the road.
The Jays have not played a home playoff game since those memorable runs in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
“It’s something that I think we’ve all been thinking about since we got drafted by the Blue Jays, the guys that were drafted with me, around the time of ‘15 and ‘16,” shortstop Bo Bichette said.
Toronto must keep its foot on the gas to hold off Tampa in the standing and avoid a trip to Tropicana Field, which has given Canada’s team fits in recent years.