It was the last game of a sorry season for the Toronto Blue Jays with nothing to look forward to other than next year.
And on a night where the Blue Jays paid tribute to the oldest player in Major League Baseball, it was a couple of rookies who showed their time to shine may be close at hand.
For those still keeping track, the Blue Jays hung on for a 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night at Rogers Centre to avoid the ignominy of a 90-loss season.
Not that a 73-89 finish is anything to crow about, Toronto’s worst finish since 2004 when they went 67-94.
It was a time for the Blue Jays to bid farewell to shortstop Omar Vizquel, their Venezuelan-born utility infielder who has decided to call it quits after a scintillating 24-year Hall of Fame career.
Vizquel, one of the slickest fielding shortstop’s the game has known, is 45 and has played in 2,968 games, not including the playoffs.
And in a classy move, Toronto manager John Farrell gave Vizquel the start at short in his final game.
That must have grated on the manager just a bit after Vizquel opined to the media last week about a lack of accountability that existed in the Toronto clubhouse this season.
“Today I look back and feel small,” Vizquel said. “I realize that I’ve been a fortunate guy to have had the opportunity to be here a long time. Really, really happy about this day.”
Vizquel turned back the clock in the top of the eighth inning when he raced out into shallow left field and made a nice catch of a Drew Butera pop-up with his back to the plate.
In the bottom of the eighth, still looking for his first hit of the night and the fans standing and cheering in the knowledge that this would in all probability be his last at-bat, Vizquel delivered again with a solid rap to centrefield.
With the hit, Vizquel moved past Mel Ott for 40th spot on baseball’s all-time list with 2,877.
The warm reception was nice, Vizquel said, and the highlight for him was his single in the eighth.
"I think the last at-bat I was going to take in the big leagues I wanted to come out with a hit, somehow, a bunt or something,” he said. "I wanted to get on base and God helped me out.
"I talked to Him at that at-bat, I said, 'God, I haven’t really talked to you in too many at-bats in my career but this is a time where you have to come through for me.'"
With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Farrell sent Mike McCoy in at shortstop to replace Vizquel so he could enjoy one more heartfelt moment with the 19,769 fans on hand, who once again treated him to a standing ovation as he made his way off the field.
Vizquel had some contemporaries on hand to help him celebrate the moment, including Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Andres Galarraga and Luis Aparicio, whom Vizquel soon hopes to join in the Hall of Fame.
The night was also about some youthful talent the Blue Jays are nurturing in Anthony Gose, 22, and Adeiny Hechavarria, 23.
In the third inning Gose drove the ball to the wall in right-centre and utilized his outstanding speed to motor all the way to third for his third triple of the season in 66 games since his minor-league call-up.
Rajai Davis then singled home Gose and, after stealing second, was brought home by Hechavarria‘s single into centre that proved to be the winning margin.
Hechavarria has now recorded a hit in 13 of his last 14 contests, going 14-for-47 (.297).
The Blue Jays spirits were also buoyed by a dominating pitching performance by Brandon Morrow (10-7), who went eight innings and allowed just one run off three hits while striking out 11.
The attendance was 19,769 pushing the Blue Jays to 2,099,633 on the season, a 15.5 per cent increase over last year and the highest single-season hike in attendance since the first year the Rogers Centre opened in 1989.
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