Blue Jays finally showcase some elusive power, win series vs. Guardians

TORONTO – There’s nothing wrong with small ball, the one-base-at-a-time approach that allowed the Blue Jays to grind out a 5-0 win on Saturday. Take those wins when you can get them – they all count the same in the end.

But no team wants to rely exclusively on the sac bunts and singles the Blue Jays needed to even the weekend series against the Guardians, and on Sunday they offered a glimpse of what life would be like if they actually hit for power again. An Ernie Clement two-run home run got the Blue Jays started in the second inning and Daulton Varsho hit a grand slam in the fifth to create some real separation.

Combined with a strong start from Jose Berrios and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen, those two home runs were enough to earn the Blue Jays a 7-6 win, taking the series from Cleveland and improving to 35-36 on the season. Late in the game, though, a major question emerged for the bullpen, as Yimi Garcia exited with an apparent injury after recording two outs in the ninth.

While Berrios was effective enough – he allowed four runs over six innings, including the first home run of Daniel Schneemann’s big-league career – what stood out most on Sunday was the Blue Jays’ offence. They combined for 11 hits and six walks against the Guardians with contributions from up and down the lineup even with Bo Bichette on the bench with right calf soreness for the second day in a row.

The seven-run outburst would be welcome against any opponent, but it’s especially noteworthy considering the Blue Jays’ season-long offensive struggles and the Guardians’ ability to keep runs off the board. Entering play Sunday, only the Yankees and Orioles had allowed fewer runs than the Guardians, while only the Rays and Marlins had hit fewer home runs than the Blue Jays.

On Sunday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled three times and walked, and the newest Blue Jays also contributed a couple times apiece. Spencer Horwitz offered a single and a walk while Addison Barger provided two hits and an RBI. Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once, though it was another unproductive day at the plate for George Springer, who heard some boos on an afternoon he struck out with the bases loaded and grounded into a double play with two runners on.

Springer’s production is, of course, a significant long-term issue for this team, but it’s more easily overlooked when others are doing their part around him. Thanks to the likes of Clement and Varsho, the Blue Jays had more than enough offence to send a sellout crowd of 40,043 home happy on Father’s Day.

As for Garcia, he entered with a three-run lead only to allow a two-run home run to Brayan Rocchio followed by two more singles. After a visit from the team trainer with the count 1-0, he exited with an apparent injury, and Nate Pearson replaced him to record the final out.

Interestingly, the Blue Jays turned to Brendon Little rather than Tim Mayza to face the left-handed hitting middle of the Guardians’ batting order in the eighth. Mayza has struggled this season, pitching to a 5.48 ERA, and the Blue Jays appear to have more trust in Little, who pitched a one-two-three eighth.

Meanwhile, Yariel Rodriguez pitched another rehab outing with triple-A Buffalo on Sunday, throwing 79 pitches over three innings while allowing two runs on three hits. He walked three and struck out seven out seven on a day his fastball averaged 93 m.p.h. and topped out at 96. From here, the Blue Jays will mull their options, but it’s entirely possible his next outing comes next weekend against the Guardians in Cleveland.

Between now and then, the Blue Jays have another tough assignment, as the Red Sox arrive in Toronto for three games starting Monday. Boston’s another team that excels at keeping runs off the board, but after Sunday, at least the Blue Jays have something to build on as their long climb back to .500 continues.

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blue jays finally showcase some elusive power, win series vs. guardians

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