Kevin Kiermaier was hit by a pitch, apparent retribution for scooping up a Toronto scouting report two days earlier, and the Tampa Bay Rays clinched a postseason berth with a 7-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Reliever Ryan Borucki hit Kiermaier on the back with his first pitch of the eighth inning, when the Rays led 7-1.
Borucki was ejected after the umpires met, which prompted Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo and enraged pitching coach Pete Walker to storm out of the dugout to argue as played spilled onto the field, Walker also was tossed and there were no incidents between the players.
On Monday, Kiermaier picked up a scouting card that fell off the wristband of Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk during a play at the plate and refused to give it back. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash apologized to the Blue Jays organization Tuesday and Montoyo said the matter was “agau under the bridge.”
Austin Meadows hit a three-run homer during a six-run third inning for the AL East-leading Rays (94-59). The postseason berth is the third in a row and seventh since 2008 for the defending AL champions, who lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games last year.
Toronto (85-67) dropped into a tie for the second AL wild-card berth with the New York Yankees, who played later Wednesday. The Blue Jays lost two of three to Tampa Bay and are 16-5 in September.
Six Tampa Bay pitchers combined on a four-hitter. JT Chargois (6-1) struck out two during a hitless fourth.
Luis Patiño allowed a first-inning single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. over three innings, working out of bases-loaded two-out jam in the opening frame.
Guerrero got the Blue Jays’ second hit with a sixth-inning double off Adam Conley and scored when Teoscar Hernández picked up his 109th RBI on a sacrifice fly. Guerrero also walked and has been on-base an AL-best 270 timeswith 51 multihit games.
The Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the third against Ross Stripling (5-7) before Yandy Díaz had a sacrifice fly and Meadows followed with his 26th homer. Taylor Walls added a two-run single that made it 6-0. Meadows has 103 RBIs.
Díaz hit a fourth-inning RBI single.
The Blue Jays close out the road portion of their regular season with four games at Minnesota, last in the AL Central, starting Thursday night. Then Toronto plays three with the Yankees and three against Baltimore, the team with the AL’s worst record, at home to wrap things up.
The Red Sox and Yankees open a three-set Friday night in Boston. After the Toronto series, New York returns home for three with the Rays. Boston closes out the regular season with three-game road series at both Baltimore and Washington.
Blue Jays: INF Breyvic Valera went on the COVID-19 related IL for contact tracing after a family member tested positive. Manager Charlie Montoyo said Valera has tested negative. … INF Santiago Espinal (right hip flexor strain) could be back this weekend.
Rays: DH Nelson Cruz (illness) was out of the lineup for the second straight game. … Reliever Andrew Kittredge (neck tightness) had a long toss session and threw at 60 feet on level ground.
Blue Jays: LHP Steven Matz (13-7) will face Minnesota RHP Michael Pineda (7-8) Thursday night.