Rays rock Blue Jays 12-8 in regular-season finale, Toronto aims to 'Take October'
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Wes Parsons, right, reacts as Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Jonathan Aranda rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam during second inning American League MLB baseball action in Toronto, Sunday, Oct. 1 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, October 1, 2023 6:21PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 1, 2023 9:19PM EDT
Back-to-back losses to end the regular season didn't diminish the revelry for the Toronto Blue Jays in squeezing into the 2023 post-season.
The Blue Jays (89-73) clinched an American League wild-card spot late Saturday night and then finished the regular season with a 12-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays (99-63) on Sunday.
Because the team had left Rogers Centre after their game on Saturday and didn't have a chance to celebrate, the Blue Jays partied in the nightclub-like atmosphere in their clubhouse.
They then took the festivities to the field to share the merriment with the remaining thousand fans who watched the party on the centre-field scoreboard.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs," Toronto manager John Schneider said, addressing his players amid the post-game celebrations in the clubhouse. "But we're exactly where we should be.
"Let's make a great (expletive) run at this."
After all the possible wild-card matchups on Sunday, the Blue Jays finished in the third wild-card spot. On Tuesday, they will face the Minnesota Twins (87-75) in a best-of-three series beginning in Minneapolis. The Rays will face the Texas Rangers (90-72).
Inside the clubhouse, the dance music blared. The players donned T-shirts that read: Take October. They showered each other with Henkell Trocken champagne and some puffed on victory cigars.
"It's only fitting," Toronto outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said about waiting until the final day of the regular season to celebrate. "Nothing has been easy for us all year. We're at game 162, and we're sitting here popping champagne for the first time.
"That's OK. That's how it is. But you know, now playoffs start. It's a clean slate. We control our own destiny. It's up to us, and we wouldn't want it any other way."
Kiermaier was among a handful of regulars who were rested on Sunday, joining Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Matt Chapman, George Springer and Alejandro Kirk on the sidelines.
"We'll be ready to roll," Schneider said. "We've been through a lot, but this is why you do it."
This is the Blue Jays' second straight trip to the post-season since the 43-year-old Schneider took over as manager in July 2022. But the Blue Jays were defeated in two straight by the Seattle Mariners in their wild-card bout last fall.
"I think a lot of guys are using it as motivation," reliever Jordan Romano said. I know I am. We've got a second crack at it here."
In the regular-season finale, both teams started triple-A call-ups in Wes Parsons (0-1) for Toronto and Jacob Lopez (1-0) for the visitors. As a result, the game turned into a slugfest, with Tampa pounding out 16 hits, three more than the Blue Jays.
The Rays jumped out to an 8-0 lead, sending 12 batters to the plate to score seven times with seven hits in the second inning. Jonathan Aranda delivered the big blow with his first career grand slam.
The Rays roughed up the 31-year-old Parsons (0-1), who last pitched in MLB four years ago with the Colorado Rockies. He was rocked for nine runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and three walks in his 89-pitch outing that spanned four innings.
Manuel Margot hit a solo blast off Parsons in the fourth inning, and Junior Caminero greeted reliever Tim Mayza with a solo shot in the fifth.
Lopez lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits, striking out four and walking two.
The Blue Jays scored three runs in the second inning and added three more in the sixth.
Davis Schneider ended an 0-for-31 slump with two doubles, scoring twice. Tyler Heineman also added two hits and knocked in three runs.
Toronto's Brandon Belt smacked his 19th homer of the season in the eighth inning. Blue Jays rookie Cam Eden registered his first career hit with a second-inning single to right field.
Tampa's Yandy Diaz also sat out on Sunday and claimed the AL batting title. He began the day tied with Texas infielder Corey Seager at .330, but Seager went 0-for-4 on Sunday.
The Blue Jays topped the three-million mark in attendance for the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since 2017, with a final crowd of 42,058 to push the season total to 3,021,904.
The Blue Jays have Monday off before beginning their AL wild-card series.
Righty Kevin Gausman (12-9) is expected to start the post-season opener for Toronto on Tuesday. He led the AL with 237 strikeouts.