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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. watches the Boston Red Sox play the Washington Nationals on the big screen at the Rogers Centre, after the Blue Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, on Oct. 3.Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays won their final game of the regular season on Sunday amid a heart-thumping wild-card race, but it wasn’t enough to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Four teams were fighting for two spots in Tuesday’s American League wild-card game – right down to the last chaotic day of Major League Baseball’s regular season. The Blue Jays clobbered the Baltimore Orioles 12-4 to finish with a 91-71 record, but they also needed some luck from the out-of-town scoreboard to extend their season, and they didn’t get it.

The Blue Jays were one game back of both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, so in addition to their own victory, they needed one of those two teams to lose, which would have forced a Monday tiebreaker game.

Instead the Yankees and Red Sox both won on Sunday and finished 92-70 – one agonizing victory better than the Jays – cementing their spots in the wild card without any need for a tiebreaker.

“A 91-win season is still something to be unbelievably proud of,” said Jays star outfielder George Springer. “I think it just shows, you know, how hard this division is, how hard the American League is.”

The Jays smashed the ball all over the park. They got five solid innings from starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. But even as this feel-good win was unfolding inside Rogers Centre, the air was thick with nervous tension.

The first inning looked like an extension of batting practice, as the Jays posted five hits and scored three runs – on a homer from Springer, and a pair of run-scoring singles by Teoscar Hernandez and Santiago Espinal.

The Jays ran Baltimore starter Bruce Zimmerman off the mound before the inning was over.

The runs just kept coming. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 48th home run of the season – a two-run rocket. Springer belted his second homer of the day. Hernandez brought in two more runs with his rifle into centre. Marcus Semien belted his 45th bomb of the year.

While the Jays’ bats were stealing the show, Ryu quietly went about his business. The lefty from South Korea allowed two runs on six hits in five efficient innings while earning the win. He was dinged in the leg by a line drive, but gutted through it.

This team – with Cy Young Award front-runner Robbie Ray, MVP candidate Guerrero and stars such as Springer and Bo Bichette – looked like a playoff team, and would have made a mighty intriguing one.

After the final out of the Jays game Sunday, the players spilled into Toronto’s clubhouse to watch the final minutes of the other games. Fans stuck around to watch on the video board. They learned the Yankees topped the Tampa Rays in a dramatic 1-0 walk-off win. The Red Sox earned a thrilling 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Washington Nationals.

Soon disappointment filled the Rogers Centre. It quieted and emptied.

After the game, on their postgame Zoom interviews, many Jays wondered what might have been had they had the use of their home stadium for the whole season, rather than having to move their base from Dunedin to Buffalo then Toronto because of the pandemic. Many of those games away from home had more fans of the visiting team in the stands than Jays fans. They stressed how proud they were to have overcome that.

“There was a lot of losses early on that felt they were tough to take, you know, losing with fans cheering against you at home, stuff like that,” Bichette said. “Sometimes we just have more on our minds than we should have had but like I said, no excuses – we had opportunities.”

Manager Charlie Montoyo raved about how hot his team got in September, and how he knew it would get hot. He stressed how difficult it had been to uproot families and change living arrangements as they moved around home stadiums. Many times, he repeated the same phrase.

“So proud of these guys.”