Toronto

World Series dream dashed for Blue Jays, and a breakup may be coming

Toronto's mightiest hitters stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but walked away scoreless, their season over. It could be the last one or two of them will be seen playing in a Blue Jays uniform.

Fans bracing for an offseason that could see the departure of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion

Troy Tulowitzki, with a bat flip few Toronto fans will want to remember, as he had just fouled out to end the Blue Jays season. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Blue Jays mightiest hitters stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but walked away scoreless, their season over.

For fans, the final three outs of the American League Championship Series felt all too familiar — a flash of hope from a leadoff double, followed by a maddening series of big swings that resulted in nothing but strikeouts and pop flies.

Still, as Cleveland's players celebrated on the field, the sell-out crowd stood and saluted their heroes, chanting "Let's go Blue Jays" one last time before a long winter of hockey.

They had all hoped for more from Toronto's boys of summer.

More than 3.3 million Blue Jays fans from all across Canada attended home games this season and from the season opener, the expectation was that the club would be a World Series contender. Thousands more hit the road, turning stadiums from Boston to Cleveland to Seattle blue with Toronto's colours. 

And when the Jays beat out the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card game and then in the divisional series swept the Texas Rangers, their 2015 nemesis, many were already picturing a trip to the World Series for the first time in 23 years.

That didn't last long.

Three straight Cleveland wins left the Blue Jays staring at near impossible odds — fans were quick to adopt Jim Carrey's famous Dumb and Dumber line "So you're telling me there's a chance?" as a rallying cry — and on Wednesday the team came out flat.

From left, Blue Jays fans Bernard Lewis, Magno Villagomez, Jen Magdics and Glenn Stants, were left puzzling over what went wrong with the Blue Jays in the AL championship series. (John Rieti/CBC)

"They just didn't hit," said Jen Magdics, as she and some friends discussed the disappointing outcome.

"They were outcoached, I think," offered Glenn Stants.

"The season was up and down anyway," said Bernard Lewis, pointing out the team has been playing what amounts to playoff baseball for some three weeks now.

"My grief is done," he said, with a laugh. "The Raptors start next week."

Jose Bautista to blame? Some fans think so

Many Toronto Blue Jays fans were quick to blame Jose Bautista after the team's exit from the playoffs, but others said the hot-and-cold team just ran up against a superior opponent. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

It wasn't lost on fans that the bottom of the ninth inning may have been their last chance to see Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in Jays jerseys, as both sluggers become free agents in the offseason.

For Misti and Nicole Bottenfield, it's clear what the Jays should do.

"Take all the money you were going to give to Bautista and give it to Edwin," Misti said.

In fact, Nicole said, just give Encarnacion "a blank cheque."

Bautista, who turned 36 on Wednesday, drew the ire of many Jays fans this postseason as he struggled at the plate while saying there were "circumstances" hindering his team's hitters against Cleveland's staff.

Then, he threw gas onto the fire by saying Cleveland's rookie pitcher would be "shaking in his boots," against Toronto. Instead, Ryan Merritt silenced the Jays' bats for four and one-third innings on Wednesday.

Online, a cacophony of voices suggested scores of changes the Jays could make, though the only thing that seems clear is that manager John Gibbons is set to return

When the Jays season ended last year in Kansas City, it marked the end of a breakthrough season.

This ending may be more of a breakup.

Blue Jays fans, whether they're feeling optimistic or not, will have to wait and see. Opening day is 166 days away.

Blue Jays fans waved their flags for the final time on Wednesday night. (John Rieti/CBC)

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