ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Several Toronto Blue Jays players sat in the visiting clubhouse on Saturday afternoon and kept an eye on the Kansas City Royals' game. A Royals loss could've allowed them to clinch the top spot in the American League several hours later.
Instead, the Royals won and the Blue Jays lost 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays as Roberto Osuna blew a save. Those results take the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs out of Toronto's control and down to the final day of the regular season.
The Blue Jays need a victory and a Royals loss on Sunday afternoon to face the AL wild-card-game winner in the division series and get home field in a potential AL championship series against Kansas City.
Home-field advantage is something the Blue Jays want.
"We've been so good at home," Gibbons said. "We're a home-run hitting team and it's a great place to hit, it's a great home-run-hitting park. Look at what our crowd's turned into, not just big crowds but crazy crowds. That's got to help, I would think."
It doesn't help the Blue Jays that they don't have a starter on regular rest for Game 162. They're already keeping David Price out until Game 1 of the AL Division Series, so Drew Hutchison will start what could amount to a bullpen game for Toronto with playoff seeding at stake.
No matter what, the Blue Jays have home field in the ALDS. But results Sunday will determine who they face.
If they win and the Royals lose and Toronto becomes the top seed in the AL, the Blue Jays will face the winner of Tuesday's wild-card game between the New York Yankees and either the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The possibility still exists of a one-game playoff between two of those teams to earn the right to face the Yankees.
Otherwise, Toronto will face the AL West winner, either the Astros or Rangers, beginning Thursday at Rogers Centre.
Troy Tulowitzki should be back on the lineup Sunday. The shortstop made his return from a three-week absence with a shoulder injury on Friday night and got Saturday off to rest.
“His body, pretty much, is overall a little bit sore, but he felt the injury area came through pretty good," Gibbons said. "I thought his timing was pretty good for being out so long. He showed no ill effects of that."
Of course the Blue Jays' lineup is at its most formidable when Tulowitzki is a part of it, but the pitching in the regular-season finale will have to be piecemeal. Hutchison did pitch Thursday, though he only threw 27 pitches in one inning before rain knocked him out of the game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Hutchison at some point could give way to veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle, who started Friday but came up two innings short of reaching 200 for the 15th straight season. The Blue Jays would like to get Buehrle to that milestone, which has only been done by four pitchers in major-league history.
"I know Gibby, if we can, would like to get Mark two innings," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "That's going to be his call to make."
On Sunday, the Blue Jays won't be able to watch the Royals' game against the Twins because Major League Baseball scheduled every game to start just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time to make sure teams couldn't rest players based on results.
Gibbons isn't worried about that having any effect.
"It makes sense, other than you've got to start at three o'clock on the East Coast," Gibbons said. "It means you get home later."
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press