George Springer and the Blue Jays put on one final power display, but even a 91st victory in Game 162 couldn’t keep Toronto’s vagabond season going.
Springer hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched his 48th homer as the Blue Jays romped to a 12-4 blowout of the Baltimore Orioles that wasn’t enough to avoid playoff elimination Sunday.
“Unfortunately our fate was in the hands of another team,” Springer said. “We were hoping for something but obviously it didn’t happen.”
Toronto needed to win and a loss by the Yankees or Red Sox on the final day of the regular season to force at least a tiebreaker game Monday for an AL wild card. But the Blue Jays’ hopes were dashed when Boston rallied from a four-run deficit to beat Washington 7-5 on a two-run homer by Rafael Devers in the top of the ninth inning that silenced stunned Toronto fans at Rogers Centre who stuck around to watch the Red Sox on the big video board.
A little earlier, New York edged Tampa Bay 1-0 with a run in the bottom of the ninth to clinch a postseason berth.
“It hurts,” Guerrero said through a translator. “Knowing that you won 91 games and you didn’t make the playoffs, it really hurts me, it hurts all my teammates. That’s just going to make me stronger to come back next year even better than this year.”
The only other time the Blue Jays won 90 or more games and failed to reach the postseason was 1987, when Toronto’s 96 victories left the team two games behind AL East champion Detroit. The Blue Jays lost their final seven games that season, four to the Tigers.
Hyun Jin Ryu (14-10) pitched five innings to win for the first time since Sept. 6, Marcus Semien hit a solo home run and Tesocar Hernández had three hits and three RBIs as the Blue Jays scored in each of the first five innings.
“Those guys came out to play all series,” Baltimore’s Trey Mancini said. “That’s one of the best offenses I’ve ever seen, personally.”
Tyler Nevin hit his first career home run for Baltimore, a 442-foot drive into the fourth deck off Ryu, but the Orioles finished a distant last in the AL East at 52-110.
“Obviously, our record isn’t where it needs to be,” Mancini said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but a lot of really good things happened this year and a lot of guys made names for themselves.”
The Blue Jays (91-71) hit four home runs in Game 162 to finish with 262, the highest total in the majors this season and the most in Toronto history.
“I’m so proud of this team overcoming all the obstacles that were placed in our way to win 91 games,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.
With the U.S.-Canada border closed because of the coronavirus pandemic when the season began, Toronto was forced to play home games at its spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, in April and May. In June, the Blue Jays moved to Buffalo, New York, the home of their Triple-A affiliate, before finally getting approval to return north of the border July 30.
“That wasn’t easy,” Montoyo said of playing in three cities. “You’re moving families, you’re getting out of leases to move to another place.”
Toronto went 25-11 at home after moving back to Rogers Centre, leaving some players to wonder what could have been without all the turmoil.
“The things we dealt with aren’t excuses but they are the reality of our circumstance,” shortstop Bo Bichette said, struggling to control his emotions. “I think sometimes we had more on our minds than we should have.”
Springer’s home runs were his 21st and 22nd, his 18th career multihomer game and fourth of 2021.
He gave the Blue Jays an early advantage with a leadoff homer against right-hander Bruce Zimmermann in the first. It was the 43rd leadoff home run of his career and fourth this season.
Springer made it 9-1 with his slam off Eric Hanhold in the third, the sixth of his career.
Guerrero drove in Springer when he homered off Marcos Diplán in the second, matching Kansas City catcher Saldavor Perez for the major league lead. Guerrero also broke a tie with Eddie Matthews (1953) for the most home runs in one season by a player 22 or younger.
While Semien and AL Cy Young Award favorite Robbie Ray are headed for free agency, the Blue Jays feel good about what Guerrero and Bichette showed in their first full seasons.
“They’re special players in my eyes,” Springer said. “They’re special talents that work hard, constantly wanting to get better. As for a ceiling, I don’t even think they’ve scratched the surface yet.”
Making his second start after a stint on the injured list because of a sore neck, Ryu allowed six hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
Nate Pearson, Julian Merryweather, Jacob Barnes and Adam Cimber all worked one inning for Toronto.
Zimmermann (4-5) faced seven batters before being replaced. He allowed five hits and three runs.
“I didn’t want to pull him early but three runs given up, traffic on the bases, I was trying to keep it right there,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
Former Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero posted a photo on social media showing all four games in the AL wild-card race airing on different television screens in a room of his home. “Added a 4th tv for the madness today,” Romero wrote. “I’m not moving all day.”
Hyde celebrated his 48th birthday Sunday.
Spinger’s slam was Toronto’s ninth of the season, matching the team record set in 2000.
Blue Jays: Toronto had not announced reporting dates for spring training 2022. The Blue Jays begin exhibition play Feb. 26 against Minnesota.
Orioles: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 15, position players on Feb. 20, and the first full workout is Feb. 21. Baltimore begins its 2022 spring training schedule Feb. 26 against the Yankees.