Fifty travel bags sat packed outside the Blue Jays clubhouse with nowhere to go.
Arriving at Sunday’s game hours before first pitch, the Jays had no idea if they’d be playing baseball tomorrow. They didn’t care about the competition or where the chartered plane would be heading, but 161 games into the year the Jays weren’t ready to die. But, on Sunday, the Blue Jays’ fate was not theirs to decide.
“Unfortunately," George Springer said, "Our fate was in the hands of another team.”
Everything sat on the edge of finality at Rogers Centre. The last walk in from the bullpen. The last first pitch. The final Marcus Semien at-bat and the final show from the 2021 Blue Jays. Even when Toronto met the moment early and often, the Blue Jays fell short.
“I’m so proud of this team," Manager Charlie Montoyo said. "Overcoming all the obstacles that were placed in our way to win 91 games.”
Toronto handled business — pouring on the early lead, scoring in each of the first five innings, and receiving Hyun Jin Ryu’s strongest start in a month — but it meant nothing without help.
Even when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched his 48th homer of the season to expand the lead to five in the second inning, the crowd eruption soon dissipated back into the aura of anxiety. The longer Toronto’s victory dragged out the less it mattered, as the 29,942 Rogers Centre fans in attendance and everyone flipping channels and doubling up screens at home turned attention to the road games.
During a lull in the bottom of the fifth, one informed fan stood up in the outfield stands and shouted the D.C. score. His “It’s 5-1 Washington, let’s go,” drew applause from all within earshot. But that out-of-town lead quickly dissipated, as the promised chaos of Sunday delivered. The New York Yankees scrapped out a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto’s entire hopes sat with the 65-win Nationals. Toronto's season came down to the final pitch — just not in their game.
As the foghorn blasted to end Toronto’s 91st win, Bo Bichette and Semien met at second base hugging. The entire team then turned toward the home dugout, raising their caps as they exited the field, not knowing it would be the last time they touched the turf this year.
“It’s tough," Springer said. "You don’t ever want your fate in the hands of somebody else. But that's just kind of the way it was. We were hoping for the best, but it didn’t happen.”
Toronto’s season formally ended a few moments after the final Jay cleared the playing surface, as Rafael Devers’ coffin-nailing homer squeezed the last life out of the Blue Jays’ season.
A 91-win season, four all-stars, a pair of MVP candidates, and a Cy Young favorite. One win short.