TORONTO — Yandy Diaz hit a three-run home run and the Tampa Bay Rays – starting an unprecedented nine Latin American players on Roberto Clemente Day – routed Toronto 11-0 on Thursday to pull within a half-game of the Blue Jays in the wild-card chase.
Clemente, the late Hall of Fame outfielder from Puerto Rico, was a two-time World Series winner and NL MVP who played 18 seasons with Pittsburgh. The Blue Jays’ Latin American starters are from five countries: Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
“Very happy, especially on a day like today,” Diaz said. “I think the Latinos are really putting a stamp on the game of baseball.”
All nine Rays starters, as well as bases coaches Chris Prieto and Rodney Linares, wore No. 21 to honor Clemente. The nine starters posed for a photo on the field after the game.
Diaz said he hoped to put his jersey and a lineup card in a frame to remember the historic day.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said the lineup was based on the batters he wanted to face Toronto right-hander Kevin Gausman.
“Gausman we’ve got as a reverse-split guy, so load up the righties,” Cash said. “It just worked out that they were all the Latin background.”
Shane McClanahan returned from the injured list to pitch five shutout innings.
“I’ve been dying to get back and help this team any way I can,” McClanahan said.
Isaac Paredes hit a solo home run and added an RBI single as the Rays (80-63) won the fifth and final game of the series. Toronto (81-63) will play a four-game series at Tampa Bay, starting next Thursday.
Seattle (80-62), which holds one of the three AL wild-card spots, was idle Thursday, but moved percentage points ahead of Toronto.
Diaz homered in a four-run second inning, his ninth. Paredes made it 5-0 with a leadoff blast in the seventh, his 19th.
Randy Arozarena had three hits, including an RBI single in the ninth, and Manuel Margot added a three-run double later in the six-run frame as Tampa Bay piled on against right-handers Trevor Richards and David Phelps.
Activated off the injured list after missing 15 games because of a left shoulder impingement, McClanahan (12-5) allowed three hits, struck out five and walked one.
“We’re better with him than without him, no doubt about it,” Cash said. He’s such a talented pitcher.”
The left-hander pitched around a pair of singles in the first inning, then retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced. He lowered his ERA to 2.13.
“Today he was so nasty,” Rays catcher Rene Pinto said. “We are not machines but he looks like one.”
Gausman (12-10) allowed five runs and six hits in seven innings, snapping a streak of four straight winning decisions. He struck out seven and walked one.
“Too many mistakes and mistakes magnified with guys on base,” Gausman said.
After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back singles in the first, the pair executed a double steal. McClanahan escaped by striking out Matt Chapman and getting Teoscar Hernandez to fly out.
Bichette doubled off JT Chargois in the sixth and advanced on Chapman’s infield single but Hernandez struck out before Adam came on to strike out pinch hitter Cavan Biggio.
Bichette, right-hander Jose Berrios, outfielder George Springer and third base coach Luis Rivera wore No. 21 for Toronto.
Two fans from Toronto’s Korean community gave some treats to Rays slugger Ji-Man Choi during batting practice, including one labelled Choco Pie. Choi returned the favor with some signed baseballs.
Tampa Bay optioned LHP Josh Fleming to Triple-A Durham to clear a roster spot for McClanahan.
Rays: RHP Shane Baz (right elbow) has started throwing on flat ground but will not return this season, Cash said.
Blue Jays: C Alejandro Kirk (left hip) was not available. Kirk did not play Wednesday.
Rays: RHP Corey Kluber (10-8, 4.36 ERA) starts Friday as the Rays return home to host Texas. LHP Martin Perez (11-6, 2.77 ERA) goes for the Rangers.
Blue Jays: Toronto has not named a starter for Friday’s home game against Baltimore. RHP Jordan Lyles (10-10, 4.62 ERA) starts for the Orioles.