Confident Blue Jays head home for playoff date with M’s

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BALTIMORE — Call it a mild-mannered warning — or at least  a declaration of confidence — issued from Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider on Wednesday.

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With preparations fully underway for a playoff showdown with the Seattle Mariners starting on Friday, Schneider promised it will be a different team that faced MLB’s Pacific Northwest franchise.

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That’s the focus now, however, after the Jays split a doubleheader with the Orioles Wednesday at Camden Yards — losing 5-4 in the opener before a 5-1 rebound in the nightcap. It allowed the playoff-bound team to finish with a record of 92-70, one win more than a year ago.

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And now it’s on to a date with the Mariners at what is expected to be a sold out and raucous Rogers Centre on Friday afternoon.

“When we (last) played them, we were kind of not going great compared to right now,” Schneider said, two days before his Jays face the M’s in a best-of-three American League wildcard series at the downtown dome.

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“I think we match up pretty closely. We were on a tough road trip the last time we played them.”

A tough way, indeed.

When the Jays visited the Pacific Northwest in July they were a scuffling team that was swept away in the four-game series. Three days later, manager Charlie Montoyo was fired and the team began to dig itself out of its lowest point of the season.

Fast forward to now and the Jays are playing some of their more complete baseball of the season, a late surge that earned them the top seed in the AL wildcard race.

The value of that seeding is something the Jays placed a premium on throughout the final month and with that in mind, Schneider is ready to toss out the 2-5 record his team had against the M’s in the regular season.

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A clear strength of the Mariners is their rotation, which will feature right hander Luis Castillo (and his 2.99 ERA) in a Game 1 matchup against the Jays’ Alek Manoah.

“They have really good pitching, obviously, with their starters and their bullpen,” Schneider said.  “(Castillo) is really good,” Schneider said. “He’s a tough righty with a good change up and good velo. He’s having a good run over in Seattle, but I think our lineup has a tendency to do really well against good pitchers.

“It will be a tough match for sure, but it’s one we are up for.”

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To the surprise of no one, Schneider confirmed Manoah as his Game 1 starter, a well-earned assignment for the second-year major leaguer.

“Seeing him in those really big moments and obviously the month of September that he’s had,” Schneider said in listing the obvious appeal of handing the ball to No. 6 for the opener. “I like the way he matches up against anybody, but confident in him embracing the atmosphere and doing what he’s been doing all year.”

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As for Game 2, Schneider wasn’t ready to announce his starting plans just yet for a possible showdown with the Mariners’ Robbie Ray, who captured the AL Cy Young Award last season while with the Jays.

“We’ve got really good pitchers and a lot of really good options,” Schneider said. “We’re kind of working through it a little bit. But love that we have the options.”


They may have had a 2-5 record against the Mariners during the regular season but their strong play of late and a decided home-field advantage meant the Jays opened as heavy favourites in the best-of-three.

Bookmaker Bodog, for one, has the Jays listed as the minus-175 choice, with the underdog Mariners priced at plus-145.

Meanwhile, if you had the Jays on season-long win totals wager (92.5 wins at most sports books), the good news is the ticket was alive until the final day of the season.

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It was actually off to a good start on Wednesday, as well, until Mitch White gave up five unanswered runs on the way to a 5-4 loss in the first game of the double dip. The split earned them a 92nd win, which wasn’t good enough to cash a bet if you wagered on them to go over 92.5 wins.


The opener of the best-of-three series will have a Friday happy hour feel to it at what is expected to be a rocking Rogers Centre.

First pitch for the first post-season game in Toronto since 2016 is scheduled fro 4:07 p.m., the same time as Saturday’s Game 2 as playoff baseball makes its return to Canada for the first time since 2016.

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Game 3, if necessary, is tentatively slated for 2:07 p.m. but subject to change depending on the status of other series.

All games will be broadcast in the U.S. by ESPN — which had an influence on the start times — and coast-to-coast in Canada by Sportsnet.


The Jays are still hopeful to have one or both of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or Santiago Espinal available for Friday. Both players flew home early Wednesday to get in some hitting and defensive work in at the Rogers Centre … Big moment from Game 1 of the season-ending double header was catcher Gabriel Moreno’s three-run homer, the first long ball in the big leagues. Moreno’s versatility was on display as he was catcher in the first game and in left field for the second half … In advance of the series opener, both the Jays and M’s will have team workouts at the Rogers Centre on Thursday afternoon.

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