TORONTO — R.A. Dickey earned his 100th career victory and Josh Donaldson slammed his 40th home run of the season as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Friday night.
But the champagne remained on ice, at least briefly.
Toronto (88-65) went into the game knowing a win over Tampa combined with losses by the Twins and Angels would secure a wild-card berth, ending the longest post-season drought in Major League Baseball.
Minnesota and Detroit were tied 4-4 when the Jays game ended. The Angels-Mariners contest was a late start.
Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista also homered for Toronto, which reached 88 wins in a season for the first time since 1998.
Former Jay J.P. Arencibia went deep for Tampa (75-79), which saw its three-game win streak snapped. His solo shot came in the eighth off reliever Mark Lowe.
Roberto Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save.
Toronto outhit Tampa 10-5 in front of a sellout crowd of 47,696 with the Rogers Centre roof open.
Dickey, who is 8-1 in 14 starts since the all-star break, limited the Rays to four hits in seven innings. He had two strikeouts and no walks in an 88-pitch outing.
Still the 40-year-old knuckleballer loaded the bases on 11 pitches with one out in the first inning on a double, single and hit batsman. Two runs came in on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
Dickey (11-11) then found his aim. He conceded a single to open the second, then retired 18 of the next 19 — including his last 11.
Donaldson, playing DH instead of third baseman, homered deep to centre field in the third to tie the game at 2-2. Of Donaldson’s home runs, 27 have either tied the game or given Toronto the lead.
He is the ninth Jay to reach the 40-homer plateau but only the third to combine it with 40 doubles and fifth with 120 RBI’s in a season. Donaldson is now one home run away from the club single-season record for a third baseman set by Tony Batista in 2000. He almost got it in the fourth, hammering a moonshot into the 500 level just foul.
Pillar did connect in a two-run fourth inning that moved Toronto into a 4-2 lead. He celebrated his 12th homer, a solo shot to centre field, in the Jays dugout by doing a jig with Chris Colabello.
Bautista hit his 37th homer, into the second deck, to open the seventh inning.
Tampa starter Jake Odorizzi (8-9) lasted five innings, dancing on a tightrope on all but one of them. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts in a 111-pitch performance that included 67 strikes.
Toronto’s playoff charge has been remarkable, given the team was 50-50 on July 26. Since then, it has gone 38-15 while outscoring the opposition 310-186.
Toronto manager John Gibbons was quizzed before Friday’s game whether, should the results go his team’s way on the night, a celebration was planned to mark the end of the franchise’s 22-year post-season absence.
With the Angels game starting at 10:05 p.m. ET and the Jays playing an early afternoon game Saturday, there wasn’t much time to hoist a glass.
“I may be asleep at that time,” a smiling Gibbons said of the late Angels game.
Still he acknowledged that while the team wants more than a wild-card berth, it would be a welcome first step back into the post-season.
“I think the guys want to celebrate,” said Gibbons. “It’s been so long.”
“Nothing’s been accomplished yet,” he cautioned. “That’s the thing.”
Toronto has two more home games against the Rays before finishing the regular season on the road, with four games in Baltimore and three in Tampa.
Odorizzi gave up a Ben Revere triple to open the bottom of the first but escaped without yielding a run.
Back-to-back Toronto doubles in the second cut the Tampa lead to 2-1 with Cliff Pennington’s RBI double just eluding a diving Grady Sizemore in left field.
Catcher Russell Martin made a fine catch off a soaring Sizemore foul ball in the third, catching it just at the railing of the Jays dugout. Bautista outduelled a fan in right field to grab a foul ball in the fourth.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press