TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons walked off the field at Rogers Centre for the final time having secured a winning record as Toronto's manager.Prior to Wednesday's game, the Blue Jays announced Gibbons would not be back as the team's manager in 2019. The decision had been a long
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons walked off the field at Rogers Centre for the final time having secured a winning record as Toronto's manager.
Prior to Wednesday's game, the Blue Jays announced Gibbons would not be back as the team's manager in 2019. The decision had been a long time coming, but on a day dedicated to Gibbons, the Blue Jays won one for the "Gibber," defeating the Astros, 3-1.
"It was pretty neat," Gibbons said. "It's just kind of embarrassing for me, just felt different today. So I enjoyed it."
Blue Jays fans showed their appreciation for the long-time manager all afternoon. Toronto mayor John Tory dedicated the day to the 56-year-old skipper, and Blue Jays fans were on their feet applauding Gibbons every time he left the dugout.
"There's a lot of things he's done for a lot of us," Kevin Pillar said. "It's nice to kind of put him at the front of it for once."
The cheering started before the first inning, when Gibbons came out to exchange lineup cards with the umpiring crew and Astros manager AJ Hinch, who hugged his friendly counterpart.
Gibbons showed his humility in the fourth inning when he grabbed Jon Berti while the two were on the Rogers Centre video screen during a pitching change. Berti was making his Major League debut in the game, and the two received a loud applause from the Toronto fans.
"He's a humble guy," Berti said. "I think he just wanted some of the attention off himself."
Berti collected his first hit in the eighth inning with a line-drive single that left the bat at 105.8 mph, according to Statcast™.
"[The hit] meant a lot," Berti said. "All the hard work that has gone into it, all the sacrifice, all the support from my family and friends, it's just as much for them as it was for me."
With starter Sean Reid-Foley on a pitch count and only able to last 3 1/3 innings, Gibbons was forced to go with his bullpen for most of the game. Each decision seemed to work out for Toronto's manager, as the Blue Jays' bullpen pitched spectacularly, holding the Astros scoreless over 5 2/3 innings.
Gibbons moved to 792-787 (.501) as Toronto's manager, and with just three games remaining in the season, he's guaranteed a winning record.
"I didn't want to end below .500," Gibbons said. "Then they'd call you a loser."
After the game he doffed his cap as he walked off the field for one final standing ovation. During his postgame interview, Gibbons received a celebratory dousing from Pillar.
"He's a welcoming human being," Pillar said. "I think that everyone just wanted to pay respect to our leader that unfortunately won't be coming back next year."
Gibbons was helped out by home runs from Randal Grichuk and Reese McGuire. Grichuk took an outside changeup over the left-field wall to score a pair in the first inning -- his career-high 25th blast -- then McGuire hit his first Major League homer in the fifth to give Toronto a 3-1 lead.
"We told him we're going to go out there and get the win for him," Grichuk said. "Obviously you can't control it, but it was good for him to go out on a high note on his last game."
Having clinched the American League West, Houston rested most of its starters and went with a bullpen day. Chris Devenski pitched the first two innings, surrendering a pair of runs, then the bullpen door opened and the rotation of relievers held Toronto to two hits the rest of the way.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jake Petricka found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning. Joe Biagini walked J.D. Davis earlier in the inning and then gave up an infield single before he was pulled. Petricka gave up another infield single when Richard Urena couldn't flip the ball to get the forceout at second, but Tony Kemp struck out to end the inning and hold the Blue Jays' one-run lead.
McGuire became the 21st Blue Jays player to hit a home run this season, two shy of the Major League lead (Angels, Brewers, Phillies) and the franchise record set in 1999.
HE SAID IT
"I've been here a long time, I've had some great times and I've had some tough times; it's kind of sad. It's sad in a way, but it brought back a lot of good memories." -- Gibbons, on walking off the field to a standing ovation
The Blue Jays head to St. Petersburg to start the final series of the season, with Thomas Pannone (4-1, 3.58 ERA) on the mound at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. It will be Pannone's sixth and final start of the season. He's 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA over his last three starts. Tyler Glasnow (2-7, 4.23) counters for the Rays. He's pitched three consecutive quality starts since allowing seven runs in two-thirds of an inning in Toronto on Sept. 5.
Aaron Rose is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.