The Toronto Blue Jays' 2021 season ended in painful fashion as they missed out on a playoff berth by just one game.
It's natural to nitpick some of the tightest losses of the season and wonder what might have been had a couple bounces gone differently. But a 91-win campaign is nothing to sneeze at, even though it only earned Toronto a fourth-place finish in the American League East.
It didn't end the way the Blue Jays and their fans wanted, but this team will still be remembered for its incredible personalities and impressive performances. In no particular order, here are the 10 most memorable moments from a fun-filled 2021 campaign.
Return to Toronto
The most emotional moment of the season came on July 30 when the Blue Jays returned to Rogers Centre after a 670-day absence. The Blue Jays were fortunate to be able to find homes in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, but there's no substitute for playing in front of your own fans.
This game had it all: an epic pre-game ceremony that left manager Charlie Montoyo in tears, home runs from some of Toronto's biggest stars, Markham, Ont., native Jordan Romano notching the save, and an incredible bare-handed catch to seal the victory.
Wild comeback vs. Oakland
The Blue Jays might never have found themselves in the playoff conversation if not for a win against the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 3. Toronto had limped through the second half of August and sat five games back of Boston and 6.5 back of the Yankees entering this contest. Oakland and the Seattle Mariners were also ahead of them in the wild-card race.
By the time the eighth inning of this game rolled around, the Blue Jays were in an 8-2 hole and facing certain defeat. A six-run eighth capped by a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grand slam and a Marcus Semien walk-off homer in the ninth earned Toronto the win, and served as a launching pad for an incredible run in September.
Vladdy's home run hat trick
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. silenced any doubters in a major way in 2021, slashing .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs in 161 games. He delivered a number of jaw-dropping moments this season, but none more impressive than his three-homer game against the Washington Nationals on April 27 in Dunedin.
And it's not like Vladdy just beat up on some of the lowly Nationals' minor-league-quality arms. Two of the blasts came off Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer. The third was served up by Kyle Finnegan, who ended the year with a very respectable 3.55 ERA.
We have a feeling this won't be the last home run hat trick of Vladdy's career.
Springer's clutch dinger against Red Sox
George Springer's first season in Toronto after signing the richest deal in franchise history was marred by injuries, but when he was healthy enough to play, he really delivered. The 32-year-old only appeared in 78 games, but posted a .907 OPS with 22 "Springer Dingers."
None of those 22 home runs were more memorable than an eighth-inning three-run blast off Red Sox closer Matt Barnes on Aug. 8 in a wild 9-8 Blue Jays victory that capped their first homestand back in Toronto.
Alek Manoah's sensational debut
It's safe to say the Blue Jays wouldn't have finished with 91 wins if Alek Manoah didn't emerge as a key member of the starting rotation. The big right-hander made 20 starts, pitching to a remarkable 3.22 ERA.
After dominating in triple-A, the rookie was thrown right into the fire, starting his first MLB game at Yankee Stadium as part of a doubleheader. He rose to the occasion, delivering six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. Manoah's mother made quite a name for herself that day, too.
Two epic rallies in one day
One of the highlights of the Blue Jays' sizzling September came on a Saturday at Camden Yards in Baltimore. In the first game of a doubleheader, Toronto trailed by four heading into the seventh and final inning. After narrowing the gap to one run, Springer stepped to the plate and delivered the decisive two-run shot to get the day started on the right foot.
Hours later, the Blue Jays entered the seventh inning of the back half of the doubleheader being no-hit, then exploded for a ridiculous 11-run inning to sweep the twin bill.
Semien sits alone in record books
The Blue Jays struck gold when they inked Semien to a one-year deal last winter. Shifting from shortstop to second base in 2021, the 31-year-old enjoyed a career-best season and finished fourth in MLB in WAR.
Semien set a new single-season record for home runs by a primary second baseman with 45 long balls, surpassing Davey Johnson’s mark from 1973. Semien certainly won't be settling for a one-year contract this offseason.
Vladdy wins MVP... of the All-Star Game
Shohei Ohtani is the odds-on favourite to win AL MP, but Vladdy still took home some hardware this summer. The Blue Jays slugger put on a show at the All-Star Game, capturing hearts with his personality and breathtaking power.
He became the first Blue Jay ever to be crowned MVP of the Midsummer Classic and the youngest player in MLB history to capture the award.
Home Run Jacket
July 29, 2021 ushered in a new era for the Blue Jays with the debut of the Home Run Jacket.
We present to you…
THE HOME RUN JACKET 💥 pic.twitter.com/3uCepzuunc
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 30, 2021
Every time a Blue Jay knocked one out of the park, he was greeted by this spiffy article of clothing upon returning to the dugout. The jacket brought the team together and was an incredible representation of the group's spirit and diversity.
Toronto finished with an MLB-best 262 home runs in 2021, and eight of those came during one afternoon in Boston on June 13 en route to an 18-4 win. Seven different Blue Jays went deep in this one, with Teoscar Hernández clearing the wall twice.
The eight homers marked a new record for a visiting team at Fenway Park. The 18 runs weren't even the most the Blue Jays would score in a single game this season, with that distinction coming in a 22-run outburst against the Orioles on Sept. 12.
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