TORONTO (AP) — Pitching in his home and native land made Scott Diamond feel as though he was making his major league debut all over again.
Diamond did well in his Canadian debut, but Brandon Morrow was even better.
Morrow struck out a season-high 11, Omar Vizquel wrapped up his 24-year career and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Diamond and the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep.
Diamond (12-9) was born in Guelph, Ontario, about 50 miles west of Toronto. He had a group of about 30 family and friends on hand, including his parents, for his first career start in Canada.
“It was like I was coming up for the first time again,” he said of his energy and excitement. “It’s the first time coming home and having a lot of people in the stands. The adrenaline was running a little bit more than normal.”
The rookie left-hander allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Diamond’s night almost ended in a hurry. Rajai Davis led off the bottom of the first with a comebacker that struck Diamond in the left leg. The ball bounced straight to first baseman Chris Parmalee, who recorded the out.
“I let my Canadian heritage shine a little bit by kick-saving it over to first base,” Diamond joked. “It’s a little sore right now but I’m glad we got the out.”
Minnesota’s trainer came out to check on Diamond, who was insistent about staying in.
“At that point, all I was thinking is `There’s no way I’m coming out of this game,'” he said. “I’ve waited a long time to be able to pitch here so there was no way I was going to come out.”
Diamond’s calf soon stiffened up, however, bringing an early end to his outing.
“He finished the fourth and fifth and we weren’t going to let him go back out there after something like that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Heck of a year for that young man. He did a great job and threw the ball very well again today.”
Morrow (10-7) allowed one run and three hits in eight innings, his longest outing since a complete game victory at Chicago on June 6. Toronto’s staff leader in wins, the right-hander reached double digits in victories for the third straight season.
“He really never let us get settled in on anything,” Gardenhire said. “It seemed like if he got behind in the count, he never really gave in and gave you a good pitch to hit.”
Ben Revere had all three hits against Morrow, a trio of ground ball singles to center.
Brandon Lyon finished the ninth for his first save as the Blue Jays avoided 90 losses, finishing at 73-89. They finished at .500 last season.
Mike McCoy replaced Vizquel with two outs in the ninth and the veteran infielder left to a standing ovation, hugging his teammates, doffing his cap and tapping his heart to show his appreciation.
The Blue Jays honored Vizquel by having him throw out the first pitch. The three-time All-Star and 11-time Gold Glove winner has said he intends to retire.
Vizquel, 45, made one final start at shortstop. It was his 2,709th game there, the most in major league history.
“He’s had a heck of a career and he’s a heck of a class act,” Gardenhire said. “Venezuela has got to be really proud of him.”
Fans stood and cheered, many waving Venezuelan flags, when Vizquel came to the plate for the first time in the third. He later drew cheers for a running, no-look basket catch on Drew Butera in the top of the seventh, and got another ovation after lining a base hit to center in the bottom half, his final at-bat. The hit was the 2,877th of his career.
“It came out perfect,” a smiling Vizquel said. “We won the game, I got a hit, I made a play and we’re all going home happy.”
Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe had to leave after jamming his left heel awkwardly on first base while running out a fielder’s choice groundout in the sixth. He was replaced by Alexi Casilla.
“He’s got all winter to get well,” Gardenhire said. “I think he’ll be OK.”
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer went 0 for 2 with two walks in his career-high 147th game, dropping his average to .319.
A fifth straight loss meant the Twins finished 66-96, three wins better than last season, but they finished with the AL’s worst record for the second straight year and were last in the division in consecutive years for the first time since 1999-00.
Anthony Gose started a two-out rally with a triple to right-center in the third. Davis drove in Gose with a single, then stole second and scored on a base hit by Adeiny Hechavarria.
The Twins cut the deficit in half in the fourth, loading the bases with a single and two walks and scoring when Toronto couldn’t turn a double play on Matt Carson’s fielder’s choice.
NOTES: Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista, who had season-ending surgery on his left wrist last month, said the injury is healing well and that he will be ready for spring training 2013. Bautista was the ML leader in home runs in 2010 and 2011. … Toronto INF Edwin Encarnacion (sore left shoulder and neck) missed his third straight start. … Former teammate Carlos Baerga and fellow Venezuelan baseball greats Luis Aparicio and Andres Galarraga were on hand for Vizquel’s final game. … The Blue Jays went 41-40 at home, the eighth straight season they’ve posted a winning record at home. … Toronto’s final attendance was 2,099,663, a 15.5 percent increase from 2011. It’s Toronto’s biggest year-on-year increase since 1989.