TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays had to overcome a four-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was more than happy to help them achieve it.

Guerrero Jr.’s three-run homer led the Blue Jays to a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday to snap Toronto’s four-game losing streak. That sweep at the hands of the Rangers left the Blue Jays out of a wild card spot, but the win helps Toronto keep pace with Texas and the Seattle Mariners.

“The key is to simply leave everything in the past,” Guerrero said through translator Héctor Lebron. “I mean you can at least forget about it.

“It’s a new day and I’m staying positive and we’re still working hard.”

The Blue Jays are just a half-game behind the Seattle Mariners for the third and final wild card in the American League. The Mariners dropped a 6-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. The Blue Jays trail the Texas Rangers, who hold the second wild card spot, by a game and a half after the Rangers lost 12-3 to the Cleveland Guardians.

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“I think we’re in a good position right now,” Guerrero said. “If you look at Texas and Seattle’s schedules, they’ll have to play six or seven games against each other, which is good for us.

“We have to stay positive, keep working hard and try to get more wins.”

José Berríos (11-10) struck out eight in seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, as Toronto (81-67) kept pace in the fight for the American League wild card.

Relievers Jordan Hicks and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., preserved Toronto’s victory. Romano earned his 35th save of the year.

“No matter how we do it, we want to win and we did,” Berríos said. “We went through a tough four-game series with Texas and turned the page.”

Brayan Bello (12-9) struck out 10 but allowed three runs, four hits and a walk in six innings for Boston (74-74). Chris Murphy came out of the Red Sox bullpen.

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Guerrero hit his 23rd home run of the season to give Toronto a 3-0 lead in the third inning. He took a 96.6 mph four-seam fastball from Bello 400 feet to deep left field, scoring Daulton Varsho and Bo Bichette.

It was Guerrero’s second home run in as many games after his two-run shot was all the Blue Jays could muster in a 9-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

“When you can hit a home run with guys present and traffic, it changes the momentum,” Toronto manager John Schneider said. “I think with our pitching staff, it’s very easy to maintain that type of focus or that level of energy.”

Berríos backed up that offense with sharp pitches, striking out three consecutive Red Sox batters in a three-up, three-down fourth inning. He was at his most efficient in the first at-bat of the inning, fanning Boston right fielder Alex Verdugo on just three pitches.

After Hicks held the Red Sox scoreless in the eighth, Romano took the mound.

Romano got Justin Turner to throw a third strike, induced a Verdugo popfly, and then struck out Masataka Yoshida to end the game.

CLEMENTE AWARD – Guerrero was named the Toronto Blue Jays’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award in a brief pre-game ceremony. Clemente died in a plane crash at the age of 38 on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, community involvement and individual contribution to his team.

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ON COVER – Right-hander Chris Bassitt (14-8) starts as Toronto continues its series with the Red Sox. Left-hander Chris Sale (6-4) will go for Boston.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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