Back-to-back doubles elevate Blue Jays over Rays |

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

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

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a solo homer in the seventh for Toronto (44-33) and George Springer had two runs on a single in the sixth.

José Berríos (6-4) allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings. He had three strikeouts.

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

Designated hitter Harold Ramirez had an RBI double as Tampa Bay (40-36) lost its fourth straight game.

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Corey Kluber (3-5) lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks.

Phoenix Sanders and David McKay, who allowed four runs, came out of the Rays’ bullpen. Right fielder Brett Phillips pitched the final frame for Tampa.

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Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the second inning when catcher Rene Pinto grounded out to third but gave Ramirez enough time to score.

Bichette, Guerrero and Kirk opened the game for Toronto with three straight RBI doubles in the third inning.

Bichette came to the plate with the bases loaded and doubled off the right-field wall to score Gurriel and Cavan Biggio.

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

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That brought Kirk to the plate with the sold-out crowd of 44,445 singing “MVP” for the biggest voter among American League catchers in the all-star ballot.

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

Ramírez cut Toronto’s lead short in the fifth, doubling into deep left center field to give Kevin Kiermaier enough time to score from first base.

Springer added more runs for the Blue Jays in the sixth inning when his hit slipped past Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz and dropped for a single. That scored Gurriel and Santiago Espinal for a 7-2 lead.

Guerrero’s grounder then brought Biggio up from third for the Toronto first baseman’s third RBI of the game.

Gurriel came to the plate in the eighth inning with two outs and nobody on base.

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

Although thousands of fans had already left Rogers Center with the game under control, the remaining crowd sang an impromptu version of “O Canada” in the top of the ninth as Castillo closed out the game.

OH CANADA! — Rogers Center dressed in red and white to celebrate Canada Day, with bunting hanging from the second deck in center field and all markers in the national colors. The first 15,000 fans to attend the game received free red Blue Jays jerseys with Springer’s name on the back. The team said all the jerseys were delivered within 30 minutes of the stadium gates opening two hours before kick-off.

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HONOR MARTIN — Former Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin threw out the first pitch. Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Martin had four all-star appearances during his 14 years in Major League Baseball. He played four seasons with the Blue Jays, including the team’s postseason runs in 2015 and 2016.

NEXT: Kevin Gausman (6-6) will take the mound for Toronto in Game 1 of the Blue Jays’ doubleheader with Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon. Shane McClanahan will be the Rays’ starter. Neither team has announced a starter for Game 2.

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

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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