Joey Butler homers twice, Rays finish season with a bang
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Joey Butler and the Tampa Bay Rays ended Mark Buehrle’s bid for history quickly.
Butler homered twice and drove in six runs, Buehrle failed to become the fifth major leaguer to pitch 200 innings or more in 15 consecutive seasons and the Rays beat the AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays 12-3 Sunday in their regular-season finale.
Starting for the second time in three days, Buehrle (15-8) needed two innings to reach the milestone, but he failed to get through the first as Butler hit his first grand slam.
"Scale of 1 to 10, probably a 12," Butler said. "It was awesome."
The Rays went 229 games between grand slams since Kevin Kiermaier hit one on July 9, 2014 against Kansas City. It was Butler’s first multihomer game, and he got a curtain call in the first inning.
Two errors led to Buehrle allowing eight unearned runs and five hits over a career-low two-thirds of an inning. He pitched 6 2-3 innings Friday night en route to his 15th win.
"You could argue he’s been as valuable as any pitcher in baseball for the last 15 years," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He’s so efficient, and you hear his teammates talk about him and what he’s done."
Tampa Bay’s first run off Buehrle scored when first baseman Edwin Encarnacion dropped Steven Souza Jr.’s soft liner for the Blue Jays’ second error in a span of five batters.
Tim Beckham drew a two-out bases-loaded walk ,and Butler hit a grand slam on an 85 mph offering — the fastest of Buehrle’s 45 pitches — to make it 6-0. The slam came after a close call by plate umpire Alfonso Marquez went against Buehrle on a 2-2 pitch.
Manager John Gibbons took Buehrle out after Brandon Guyer’s RBI single.
Mikie Mahtook completed the Rays’ nine-run first with a two-run homer off Ryan Tepera.
Butler had a two-run shot during a three-run fifth.
Matt Moore (3-4) gave up one run and four hits over six innings for the Rays, who went 80-82 under first-year manager Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay was 77-85 last year with current Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
"80 sounds a lot better than 79," Cash said. "That was a good win."
The Rays finished with an MLB-low home attendance of 1,247,668 after drawing 15,815 on Sunday. Tampa Bay drew 1,446,464 last season.
Chris Colabello and Darwin Barney homered for the Blue Jays, who needed a win and a Kansas City loss to finish with the AL’s best record.
David Price is scheduled to start Game 1 of the Blue Jays’ AL division series Thursday at home against AL West champion Texas. Toronto ended the regular season at 93-69, a 10-game improvement over last season.
Buehrle said he will not be on the active roster for the Rangers’ series. He also hasn’t decided if he will be retiring.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen," Buerhle said. "I’m going to go home and talk with my wife. We’ll figure it out and let you guys know in a couple months."
Colabello hit a solo homer in the fourth, and Barney had a two-run ninth-inning drive.
Rays: Kiermaier didn’t start due to back tightness.
THE BIG FOUR
The four pitchers to have thrown 200 innings or more in at least 15 consecutive seasons are Cy Young (19), Warren Spahn (17), Don Sutton (15) and Gaylord Perry (15).
Blue Jays: Toronto works out at home Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Rays: Tampa Bay opens the 2016 season at home against Toronto on April 4.