TORONTO — Starting pitching was a problem all season for the Toronto Blue Jays, and game 162 was no exception.
Todd Redmond was knocked out before the end of Tampa Bay's six-run first inning and the Rays held on to beat the Blue Jays 7-6 on Sunday, clinching a tie for an AL wild-card berth.
A season that began with high hopes of ending a two-decade playoff drought soon turned sour in Toronto, as the Blue Jays struggled to get consistent efforts from new starters R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. They also lost incumbents Brandon Morrow (forearm) and J.A. Happ (head, knee) to long-term injuries, while former staff leader Ricky Romero spent the bulk of the year in the minors.
Rather than pushing for the postseason, Toronto finished last in the AL East at 74-88.
"Obviously we didn't perform the way we hoped," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "We need to get it right and get better."
Infielder Brett Lawrie was one of several key position players to miss time with injuries.
"We had a lot of people that thought we were going to win the World Series," Lawrie said. "But it takes a little bit of time to build chemistry. We had a little bit of trouble keeping some guys healthy, myself included."
Evan Longoria hit an RBI double as the Rays used their highest-scoring first inning since 2010 to go ahead early. Tampa Bay took a 7-0 lead into the sixth before Toronto rallied.
Redmond (4-3) got just two out, giving up five runs and four hits.
"It was a tough way for him to go out today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Redmond, who had won his previous three decisions. "He's a lot better than that."
Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected in the seventh and the Blue Jays put the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth and ninth innings. Fernando Rodney got for four shaky outs for his 37th save in 45 chances.
"We knew the Rays needed that win today, and we weren't going to just give it to them," Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes said.
Tampa Bay is certainly familiar with big rallies on the final day. In 2011, the Rays overcome a 7-0 deficit in the eighth and came back to beat the Yankees 8-7 in 12th to clinch a wild-card spot.
This time, the Rays almost let a huge lead slip away. Maddon acknowledged thinking back to that 2011 game as the Blue Jays crept closer and closer.
"I did think that and it was really awkward," Maddon said, "but I thought this is different, we're looking through the windshield and not the rear view mirror today."
Matt Moore (17-4) won consecutive starts for the first time in more than two months. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. Moore walked three, all in the first inning, and struck out four.
Toronto broke through against Moore in the sixth when Mark DeRosa hit a two-run double. Moore left after Ryan Langerhans singled, and reliever Jake McGee gave up a sacrifice fly to J.P. Arencibia.
The Blue Jays cut it to 7-4 in the seventh on Lawrie's double. Joel Peralta replaced McGee and walked Moises Sierra to load the bases.
Maddon was ejected by home plate umpire Paul Schrieber for arguing, but Peralta escaped when pinch-hitter Adam Lind grounded the first pitch he saw into an inning-ending double play, with first baseman Loney making a superb catch on shortstop Escobar's low relay throw.
"He's done it all year," Maddon said of Loney's pivotal snag. "He's been fabulous."
Peralta ran into trouble again in the eighth, leaving with two outs and runners at first and second. Rodney came on and gave up RBI singles to Reyes and Anthony Gose, shaving Tampa Bay's lead to 7-6. Lawrie walked to load the bases before Rodney struck out Sierra.
NOTES: It was the Rays' highest-scoring first inning since Sept. 10, 2010, when they also scored six in a game at Toronto. ... Toronto RHP Esmil Rogers pinch-ran for Lind (back) after Lind's leadoff single in the ninth. Rogers was forced at second on Langerhans' grounder. ... Toronto went 40-41 at home, their first losing record since 2004. ... Maddon was ejected for the fifth time this season. ... The Blue Jays played a video tribute to LHP Darren Oliver, who is set to retire after 20 seasons. Players from both teams stood and applauded when Oliver took the mound to begin the seventh. ... Toronto drew 44,551 fans in their finale for a season total of 2,536,562, their highest since 1997.