Rays blow out Blue Jays, avoid last place

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Joey Butler (9) celebrating his grand slam in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Joey Butler (9) celebrating his grand slam in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.
Published Oct. 5, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays put a good finish on their disappointing season with a 12-3 win Sunday over the Blue Jays that left them in fourth place in the American League East with an 80-82 record.

"Eighty sounds a lot better than 79," manager Kevin Cash said.

The Rays won five of their last six to get there, but that didn't erase the struggles they had during the season, a combination of injuries, inconsistent performances and lack of depth ultimately catching up to them.

Sitting at 40-30 and in first place the morning of June 21, the Rays went 40-52 the rest of the way and scrambled to finished ahead of the last-place Red Sox. "It's frustrating we didn't get to where we wanted to get," Cash said. "We didn't get it done when we needed to, but we did some really good things, and that's what we're going to continue and build on in the offseason."

BUTLER DID IT: OF Joey Butler finished the season in grand fashion, hitting the Rays' first grand slam of the year in a nine-run first and adding a two-run homer for a six-RBI day that included his first career curtain call for a crowd that included his mom.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, that was probably a 12," Butler said. "That was awesome; that was unbelievable."

Butler was a key part of the Rays' early season success, coming up in early May and hitting .338 over 44 games before fading badly and being sent back to Triple-A Durham.

"He kind of eluded us for a month or so there, but he showed up big (Sunday)," Cash said. "When we were at our best this year, Joey Butler was in the thick of it. … He can hit."

OF Mikie Mahtook also homered in the first as the Rays battered Jays veteran LHP Mark Buehrle, who, after starting Friday, had hoped to work two innings so he could reach 200 for a 15th straight season. He didn't get through the first. The nine-run inning was the Rays' biggest since 2008. Their last grand slam came 230 games previously, by Kevin Kiermaier in July 2014.

MORE MOORE: LHP Matt Moore allowed one run in six innings to put a solid finish on his comeback from April 2014 Tommy John elbow surgery. After an initial rough return (1-5, 8.78 ERA in six starts) and a month exile to Triple A, Moore came back much sharper, going 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA over his final six starts. Said Cash, "(He) finished his season very strong. That's probably the most encouraging thing to come out of (Sunday) — and over the last month, the way he's pitched." Moore said he needed time to get a perspective on his season but "it definitely is going to be nice to think about how my last few outings went. I couldn't be more grateful for where I'm at right now."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Chris Archer, who left Saturday's start after five innings, reiterated that the only issue with his arm was fatigue from a career-high workload of 212 innings: "I feel like I do after every start, sore in all the right places." … 2B Logan Forsythe ended up not playing again since being hit by a pitch on his right foot Tuesday but had additional testing. Cash said the injury was nothing worse than a painfully located bruise.

CROWD CONTROL: With Sunday's crowd of 15,815, the Rays finished with a season attendance of 1,247,668 and an average of 15,403, both last in the majors. The total was the worst since 2005 and marked a third straight year of decline.

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GOOD DEEDS: Archer presented a check for $18,900, based on donations for each of his 252 strikeouts, to be split between Burg Baseball and RBI of Tampa. … 3B Evan Longoria on Saturday presented a check for $12,700, from donations for his 21 homers and other events, to the Pet Pal Animal Shelter.

MISCELLANY: Player personnel director Matt Arnold has talked with the Marlins about a front office position. … Cash and baseball operations president Matt Silverman will hold a season-ending media session Tuesday. … Former 1B coach George Hendrick was at Tropicana Field, visiting with players and, he said, watching a game from the stands for the first time after 47 years in uniform. … Spring training opens in Port Charlotte on Feb. 16.