Varsho’s grand slam leads Blue Jays past Guardians

TORONTO – Daulton Varsho came to bat with the bases loaded three times Sunday.

Although he only connected once, it was all the Toronto Blue Jays needed.

Varsho’s grand slam in the fifth inning powered Toronto past the Cleveland Guardians 7-6. It was Varsho’s second grand slam of the season and brought his home run total up to a team-best 11.

“One of the things where sometimes you get it done, sometimes you don’t, and when you do get it done it feels really good,” said Varsho, who also leads the Blue Jays with 35 runs batted in.

Ernie Clement had a two-run homer in the second as Toronto (35-36) took two of three games from the American League Central-leading Guardians. Addison Barger added an RBI single in the fifth.

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“We can hit the long ball but we’ve also got to play some small ball at times,” said Varsho, a day after the Blue Jays scratched out runs with a series of timely base hits in a 5-0 win. “I think that’s what helped us win a lot of ball games.”

Jose Berrios (6-5) allowed four runs on eight hits over six innings with one strikeout. It was his first win in five starts. His last victory was a 9-3 decision over the White Sox in Chicago on May 20.

“I need to keep going out there and compete and do my thing and I did it,” said Berrios. “They scored four runs on me but I still made good pitches to hold the game right there and give our team a chance to win.”

Relievers Chad Green, Brendon Little and Yimi Garcia came on after him, with Garcia surrendering two runs and leaving the game with what Toronto manager John Schneider called a sore right elbow. Nate Pearson got the final out of the game for his second save of the season.

Daniel Schneemann and Brayan Rocchio each had a two-run homer for Cleveland (44-25). Steven Kwan had an RBI single and Tyler Freeman drove in another run.

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Ben Lively (6-3) gave up four runs on six hits and three walks but struck out four over four innings. Nick Sandlin, Scott Barlow, Cade Smith, Sam Hentges, Pedro Avila, Hunter Gaddis came out of the Guardians’ bullpen.

The first inning got off to a promising start for the Blue Jays as they loaded the bases with no outs. Spencer Horwitz led off with a single, Davis Schneider drew a walk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got a base hit.

Lively retired Varsho, George Springer, and Alejandro Kirk in quick succession to keep the game scoreless. Ultimately, Toronto would leave nine players on base in the game, six in scoring position.

“That happens,” said manager John Schneider. “Sometimes you get the knock, sometimes you don’t. But love the way that we came back after the first inning.”

Clement opened the scoring in the next inning with his third home run of the season. Barger had led off the inning with a single and also crossed home on the line drive, giving Toronto a 2-0 lead.

Kwan hit a bases-loaded single, with no outs, in the fifth. That pushed Daniel Schneemann across home plate for the Guardians. Freeman ground into a double play in the next at bat, but Rocchio scored on the play to tie the game 2-2.

Horwitz and Schneider drew back-to-back walks to lead off the bottom of the inning and Guerrero banged a single off the centre-field wall to again load the bases.

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Unlike the first inning, Varsho made no mistake.

He smashed a 92 m.p.h. four-seam fastball from Sandlin 398 feet to right-centre field. After the bases were cleared, Springer and Kirk both walked and Barger singled to give Springer enough time to dash home for a 7-2 Toronto lead.

Schneemann chipped away at that lead for Cleveland in the sixth. His looping home run landed in the Blue Jays bullpen, to cash in Will Brennan. The first home run of Schneemann’s MLB career cut Toronto’s lead to 7-4.

Rocchio pulled the Guardians to within a run in the ninth. His second homer of the season also scored Schneemann.

NO BICHETTE — Toronto’s all-star shortstop Bo Bichette didn’t play for a second consecutive day. John Schneider said Saturday that Bichette was resting a sore right calf.

“Hopefully it’s not too much longer,” said Schneider. “Looking forward to when he’s back in there, but he was definitely feeling better today.”

ON DECK — Yusei Kikuchi (4-5) will get the start as Toronto continues its homestand Monday night against the visiting Boston Red Sox.

Nick Pivetta (3-4) is scheduled for Boston.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2024.

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