TORONTO — The party continued Sunday as Josh Donaldson’s walkoff solo homer gave Toronto a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the Blue Jays’ regular-season home finale.
Donaldson was doused with Gatorade by delirious teammates as he crossed the plate, to chants of M-V-P, after driving a ball deep to left field for his 41st homer of the season. The third baseman was then doused with popcorn during his post-game interview.
Justin Smoak, who had driven in three runs already, started the Jays’ rally with a one-out single in the eighth. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey stole second and Kevin Pillar doubled him home to tie the game at 4-4.
Ben Revere kept it even in the ninth with a diving catch that saw four Jays converge on a Steven Sousa Jr. fly ball.
It was back to business for Toronto (90-65) after a short but wild post-game celebration Saturday of mark securing at least a wild-card berth. The champagne and cigars were put away, at least for a while.
The fans were still partying, however. The Jays got a standing ovation coming off the field after batting practice as well as in the third inning when they came out to salute the crowd as part of Fan Appreciation Weekend.
Mikie Mahtook homered for Tampa (75-81).
The Jays fought back from 4-1 and had chances to pull even down 4-3 before the eighth.
With one out in the seventh, Revere hit a swerving double deep to left-centre that eluded two Rays outfielders and, one out later, took third on a passed ball. But Jose Bautista hit a hard groundout to third to end the threat.
Donaldson kept the Jays close in the eighth with a heady play, tagging out Mahtook at third as the Rays outfielder struggled to get back on a sharply hit grounder. Opening the inning, Mahtook had singled, moved to second on an error and stole third. A double play ended the Rays’ charge.
Smoak doubled home a run in the first inning and hit a two-run homer in the sixth off Brandon Gomes to cut the Tampa lead to 4-3. Smoak’s 17th home run of the season upped his RBI total to a career-high 56.
Toronto ended up 53-28 at the Rogers Centre. Tampa, meanwhile, wrapped up the away portion of its season at 39-39, ending its five-season streak of going .500 or better on the road.
The Jays finish the regular season on the road with four games in Baltimore and three in Tampa.
The 53 home wins match the Jays’ 1992 total and is second only to 1985 (54).
Toronto has been a juggernaut the last two months, going 41-15 since July 26 when it was 50-50.
Starter Mark Buehrle, who was 5-1 with a 2.94 ERA over his last 10 home starts, pitched six solid innings for the Jays. He gave up four runs on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk in a 90-pitch outing that featured 60 strikes.
The 36-year-old left-hander, a pending free agent, stands 8 2/3 innings shy of 200 innings for the 15th straight season. The only others to do it are Hall of Famers Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry.
The sellout crowd of 47,287 — the 12th straight and 27th sellout of 2015 — upped the season home total to 2,794,891, the club’s highest since 1995 (2,826,483).
With a wild-card already assured, the goal is to win the American League East and secure home-field advantage. Toronto went into Sunday play with a four-game lead over the New York Yankees and a magic number of five to win the division.
The Yankees played the White Sox on Sunday.
Toronto entered the day tied with Kansas City for the best record in the AL at 89-85. Amazingly the Jays were 51-51 on July 29 while the Royals were 61-39.
Buehrle gave up a triple to Brandon Guyer on his first pitch of the game and paid for it two outs later on Logan Forsythe’s RBI single. Toronto answered with Smoak’s RBI ground-rule double, leaving two men on in the first.
Mahtook, a rookie who the first homer of his career off Buehrle in April, hammered a two-run shot to right-centre in the third to make it 3-1 Tampa. Guyer was on base after being hit by Buehrle.
A Richie Shaffer sacrifice fly after back-to-back Tampa singles made it 4-1 in the fourth.
Tampa’s Matt Andriese, making a spot start, gave up a run and then retired seven straight before exiting after three innings and 54 pitches. Recalled Aug. 19, all 10 of his previous appearances had been in relief.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press