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Guerrero homer not enough as Blue Jays lose first at home to Cleveland

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Well, they can’t win them all.

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The Blue Jays fell for the first time since coming back to Toronto, dropping Monday’s series-opener with Cleveland 5-2 in 10 innings.

Toronto had rallied from a 2-0 deficit thanks to a tape-measure home run by Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth inning and had survived a rare less than excellent performance by starter Robbie Ray, only to see it all fall apart in extra innings. Brad Hand threw a wild pitch, which moved the runner who started the inning on second base to third, a single broke the tie, and Jose Ramirez clobbered a ball off the foul pole in left field to break the game open.

Ray has had a brilliant season, but wasn’t his usual self early on.

Making his third career start at Rogers Centre, but first as a Jay, Ray gave up four hits and a couple of walks through the first 2.1 innings of the game and had the bases loaded. Ray also trailed only Roger Clemens in strikeouts by a Jay through their first 25 games, yet didn’t have one until an out into the fourth inning.

Harold Ramirez singled after a long at-bat with the bases loaded, but Cleveland only got one run on the play because Randal Grichuk gunned down a second runner at the plate, the first of two excellent defensive Grichuk plays on the day.

Oscar Mercado singled home a second run and advanced on an error. That prompted a visit to the mound by pitching coach Pete Walker, but Ray got out of the inning.

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Meanwhile, Eli Morgan was good early for Cleveland. He was making his eighth career start, and second against the Blue Jays. This one went much better than the first, which saw him surrender six runs in 2.2 innings.

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Toronto managed only two hits off Morgan until Alejandro Kirk doubled off the wall in the fifth with two outs. But Morgan, who kept Toronto’s hitters largely off balance with a changeup, struck out Cavan Biggio to end the inning with a fastball.

The sixth inning was a different story. After American League player of the week George Springer opened the inning with a single, Guerrero hit his no-doubt homer to tie the game.

Guerrero has annihilated many baseballs this season, but this one was up there with just about any of them. It was his first at Rogers Centre since the team returned Friday, though he’d come close on a couple of occasions.

Adam Cimber relieved Ray to start the seventh and did his job, as did Joakim Soria, who made his Blue Jays debut in the eighth, followed by Jordan Romano, who got himself out of any trouble, but Hand couldn’t do the same.

GLAD TO BE VLAD

One of the enduring images so far from Toronto’s return home has been the hijinx in the dugout. Whether it’s the home run jacket, the batting tips or tying up Guerrero with duct tape, it’s clear this is a group that enjoys being around each other.

And Guerrero, the MVP candidate, seems to always be at the centre of it all.

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“We’ve been like that the whole season, but nobody noticed because we’ve been on the road the whole time,” manager Charlie Montoyo said of what’s been going on in the dugout. “But now that we’re home, you can see it a lot more.”

Montoyo gave Guerrero his first day off of the season Sunday, and the television cameras caught various Blue Jays keeping him in place with tape.

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“To be that young and be like that, you know the funny thing about yesterday’s day off was all the players were saying, ‘Please play him. We don’t want him on the bench messing with everybody,'” said a laughing Montoyo. “That’s why they had all that tape around him.”

Guerrero returned to the lineup and to first base Monday and collected a line-drive single in the first to extend his hitting streak to nine games before launching his 34th homer later in the game.

LEFTY BAT ON THE WAY

Montoyo said outfielder Corey Dickerson is “almost ready” and might play at some point this week against Cleveland, “or one of these days.”

Dickerson has recovered from the foot injury he had before he was dealt to the Jays and played his fourth rehab game with Buffalo Sunday.

“Putting a left-handed batter in the lineup, it makes us even better. Spreads out the lineup,” Montoyo said.

Dickerson could start some games in the outfield, but also seems poised to be utilized as a nice weapon off the bench.

“It feels good to have somebody like Dickerson, if he’s not playing, on the bench. That you can bring a tough righty out of the bullpen (to face the Jays), he can pitch hit for anybody,” Montoyo said.

“That’s why the Rays are so good. That’s what they have. Whenever you’re thinking about bringing somebody in (to pitch), they’ve got like five guys waiting to pitch hit and that’s what Dickerson does for us.”

BERRIOS CAN FIELD, TOO

One of the many reasons why new Jay Jose Berrios goes so deep into games regularly is his fielding ability. He is a lot sharper with the glove than most pitchers, as his 2019 Gold Glove finalist status attests. He’s also near the Major League leaders amongst pitchers for defensive runs saved (as is teammate Steven Matz) and he made some great plays in his Toronto debut Sunday.

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“He looks like a shortstop on the mound. That was pretty cool to see,” Montoyo said.

When told Berrios was in fact once a shortstop, Montoyo wasn’t surprised.

“He had to be. There’s no way you could have those reactions like that if you didn’t play second base or shortstop or whatever (growing up).”

AROUND THE BASES

Catcher Danny Jansen is back on the field, but Montoyo said his hamstring issue has to be treated carefully (since it’s taken him out of the lineup twice now this season) so they won’t rush … Cavan Biggio played second base Monday and though Santiago Espinal has been excellent at third lately, Montoyo said “I still see Biggio as my third baseman. But just because he can play everywhere, that makes it easier for me. And that’s why he’s playing second base today (with Marcus Semien at his natural shortstop spot. Taking Bo (Bichette) off his feet. So he can DH,” Montoyo said … Toronto had the best ERA in baseball over its previous seven games. “That’s the good thing about our pitching (after the trade deadline),” Montoyo said. “We feel good every day (with who is on the mound).”

@WolstatSun

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