The Toronto Blue Jays continued their hot streak against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night and can clinch the three-game series on Tuesday night.
Toronto put it all together Monday in an 8-1 victory, with Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hitting solo home runs and Alek Manoah allowing one hit while striking out 10 in eight shutout innings. Teoscar Hernandez chipped in with his first career five-hit game.
Guerrero has 45 homers to regain the major league lead. His home run total is the fourth-most for a season in franchise history.
His home run on Monday had a launch angle of 15 degrees, tying Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 20 for the lowest launch angle to hit a homer that cleared the fence this season.
“I think the third baseman jumped,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I thought it was going to hit the wall — there was no way it was going out. When it went out, I went, ‘Oh, my God’ Not many people can do that.”
The Rays, who have lost four of their past five games, were outhit 17-2, and their run came on a ninth-inning home run by Austin Meadows against reliever Trevor Richards in the ninth inning.
The Blue Jays (81-63) have won 12 of their past 13 games and 15 of 17, but they are eight games behind the first-place Rays (89-55) in the American League East.
The Blue Jays are 18 games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 4, 2016.
The Rays still hold an 8-6 advantage in their season series with the Blue Jays. Tampa Bay is 5-7 in September after going 21-6 in August.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (11-7, 3.52 ERA) will start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday and will be facing the Rays for the first time since May 31, 2019, when he was with the Minnesota Twins. In four career outings against the Rays, he is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA.
The Rays will start right-hander Drew Rasmussen (2-1, 3.25). He allowed one hit and no runs in two innings in his only career appearance against the Blue Jays, a relief stint in July.
A positive development for the Rays on Monday was the first appearance of the season by reliever Nick Anderson, who had been out since spring training with an elbow injury.
Anderson worked around a single and a walk in the seventh inning, although his first out came on a spectacular catch at the wall by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Anderson was one of the top high-leverage relievers in 2019-20 going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and six saves in 37 2/3 innings after joining the Rays during the 2019 season from the Miami Marlins.
Over 42 games with the Rays, he struck out 67 of 136 batters.
“It’s been a long road, obviously, that he’s coming back with two-three weeks left to play,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “But if we can get him anything close to what he’s been for us the last two seasons, we’ve got a really, really special pitcher.”
“Tonight, in all facets of the game, the Blue Jays just dominated us,” Kiermaier said.
Toronto recalled left-hander Ryan Borucki from Triple-A Buffalo on Monday and optioned right-hander Trent Thornton to Buffalo.
–Field Level Media