Back-to-back doubles lift the Jays over the Rays. Globalnews.ca

TORONTO – Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk hit three consecutive doubles as the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 on Friday in Toronto’s first home game since 2019 on Canada Day.

The Blue Jays played in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, NY for most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to COVID-19 regulations.

Lourdes Gurrill Jr. scored a single home run in the seventh inning for Toronto (44–33) and George Springer scored two runs with a one in the sixth.

Jose Berios (6-4) conceded two runs in eight hits and two runs in five innings. He had three strikeouts.

Trent Thornton, Sergio Romo, Max Castillo come in relief for the Blue Jays.

Designated hitter Harold Ramirez had an RBI double as Tampa Bay (40-36) dropped their fourth game in a row.

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Corey Kluber (3-5) lasted only three innings, conceding five runs in seven hits and two walks.

Phoenix Sanders and David McKay, who conceded four runs, came off the Reyes’ bullpen. Right-fielder Brett Phillips pitches the final frame of Tampa.

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Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the second innings when catcher René Pinto was dismissed in third, but gave Ramirez enough time to score.

Bichette, Guerrero and Kirk broke open play for Toronto with three consecutive RBI doubles in the third innings.

Bichette came to the plate with loaded bases and hit a double through the right-field wall to score Gurrill and Cavan Bigio.

On the next pitch, Guerrero doubled the left field line to bring on Springer and Bichette.

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This brought Kirk to the plate with a sold-out crowd of 44,445 chanting “MVP” for the top vote-getter among American League catchers in All-Star balloting.

His hit also went down the left field line and redeemed Guerrero for a 5-1 lead.

Ramirez retracted Toronto’s lead in fifth place, doubling down in deep left-center field to give Kevin Kirmayer enough time to score from first base.

Springer scored more runs for the Blue Jays in the sixth inning when his hit was taken out by Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz and dropped for a single. This gave Gurrill and Santiago Espinal a 7-2 lead.

Guerrero’s groundout brought Bigio home from third place for the third RBI of the game from a Toronto first baseman.

In the eighth inning, Gurrill came to the plate with two outs and no dismissals.

He took McKay’s 79.4 mph curveball into left-center field for a 9-2 lead.

Although thousands of fans had already left the Rogers Center with the game in hand, the rest of the crowd sang an improvised version of “O Canada” at the top of the ninth as Castillo called off the game.

Hey Canada! – To celebrate Canada Day, the Rogers Center was decorated in red and white, with bunting hanging from the second deck in the center field and all scoreboards in national colours. The first 15,000 fans who attended the game were given free red Blue Jays jerseys with Springer’s name on the back. The team said all jerseys were handed over within 30 minutes of the stadium gate opening two hours before the game.

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Martin Honored – Russell Martin, a former Blue Jays catcher, throws the opening pitch. Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Martin earned four All-Star appearances in his 14 years in Major League Baseball. He played four seasons with the Blue Jays, including the team’s post-season runs in 2015 and 2016.

UP NEXT – Kevin Gossman (6-6) will take the mound for Toronto in the first game of a Blue Jays doubleheader with Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon. Shane McClanahan will get the start for the Rays. Neither team has announced the start for the second game.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2022.

© 2022 Canadian Press