TORONTO (AP) Jonathan Aranda hit his first career grand slam and drove in six runs, Tampa Bay homered three times to set a single-season team record and the Rays roughed up the Toronto Blue Jays 12-8 on the final day of the regular season Sunday, helping to set up a wild card meeting with the Texas Rangers.
Toronto’s loss and Houston’s win at Arizona means the Rays will host the Rangers while the Blue Jays visit Minnesota in the AL wild card series beginning Tuesday.
Junior Caminero hit his first career home run and Manuel Margot also connected as the Rays set a team record for homers in a season with 230.
Tampa Bay’s Yandy Díaz won the AL batting title by sitting out the final day of the season.
“It’s awesome,” Díaz said through a translator. “Something like this is unforgettable.”
Díaz returned Friday after missing two games because of a sore right hamstring. He struck out as a pinch hitter on Saturday.
Díaz began the day in a tight race with Texas shortstop Corey Seager, with Seager ahead .3298 to .3295. Seager went 0 for 4 in a 1-0 loss at Seattle, dropping his average to .327.
“We were just waiting for Seager to get a hit and since he didn’t get a hit, I didn’t get into the game,” Díaz said.
The Rays lost four of six meetings with the Rangers this season, including a three-game sweep at Texas in July.
“Everybody knows those guys can score a lot of runs and they can hit,” Díaz said. “We’re going to have to score as many runs as we can. I think it’s going to be a good battle of the offenses.”
Aranda connected in a seven-run second inning, his second home run. Aranda came into Game 162 with seven RBIs and went 3 for 5 with six RBIs in the regular season finale.
“Good for Johnny to feel good about himself,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Margot’s two-out blast in the fourth inning was Tampa Bay’s 229th home run, breaking the mark set in 2017. Margot connected for the fourth time.
Caminero made it 10-3 when he homered off left-hander Tim Mayza in the fifth. The rookie lost his batting helmet on his swing and circled the bases without it.
The Rays were 85-39 when hitting at least one home run, and 52-13 when hitting two or more.
The 12-run outburst on the final day gave the Rays 860 runs for the season, breaking the 2021 record of 857.
Tampa Bay finished 99-63, a 13-game improvement from last season’s 86-76 mark.
Brandon Belt hit his 19th home run for the Blue Jays, who sat Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Alejandro Kirk and Matt Chapman on the final day. Toronto clinched a wild card berth when Seattle lost to Texas on Saturday night.
Toronto finished 89-73, three wins shy of 2022, when they finished in the top wild card position. The Blue Jays were swept at home by the Mariners in the wild card round. Toronto hasn’t won a postseason game since 2016.
“I think everyone is motivated, hungry, especially because of what happened last year,” Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano said. “We want to make some noise.”
There was plenty of noise in Toronto’s clubhouse after the game as the Blue Jays belatedly celebrated their second straight AL wild card berth. The team eventually headed out to the field for more celebrations and photos as several hundred fans watched on.
The Blue Jays split six meetings with the Twins this season with each team winning twice on the road. Their final meeting was June 11 in Toronto
“We’ll be ready to roll,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “We’ve been through a lot, but this is why you do it.”
Both teams promoted Triple-A pitchers to start the regular season finale, with Tampa Bay recalling left-hander Jacob Lopez from Durham and the Blue Jays selecting the contract of right-hander Wes Parsons from Buffalo.
Making his first big league start, Lopez (1-0) allowed six runs, five earned, and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Parsons (0-1) allowed nine runs and 10 hits in four innings.
With a crowd of 42,058 in the home finale, Toronto finished with a total attendance of 3,021,904. The Blue Jays topped 3,000,000 for the eighth time overall and the first time since 2017.
The Rangers-Rays series pits Texas first baseman and former Ray Nathaniel Lowe against his younger sibling Josh, a Tampa Bay outfielder.
“I honestly thought that we would see them a little farther down the road,” Josh Lowe said. “Either way, I know our parents are going to be proud of this, two sons playing in the postseason. It’s going to be awesome.”
OFF THE SCHNEID
Toronto’s Davis Schneider snapped an 0-for-31 slump with a double in the third.
Rays: To make room for Lopez, Tampa Bay optioned RHP Cooper Criswell to Triple-A Durham.
Blue Jays: To make room for Parsons, RHP Jay Jackson was designated for assignment.
Rays: Cash said OFs Luke Raley (cervical strain) and Jose Siri (fractured right hand) will face live pitching Monday, a test of their potential abilities to be ready for the wild card series.
Tampa Bay hosts Texas at 3:08 p.m. ET Tuesday in the opener of the AL wild card series, while Toronto visits Minnesota at 4:38 p.m. ET the same day.
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