TORONTO – The Texas Rangers struck first in a key series against the Toronto Blue Jays by rolling to a 10-4 victory at Rogers Centre on Monday night.
Jonah Heim hit a grand slam and Evan Carter had a solo shot as the Rangers ended Toronto’s three-game winning streak.
By taking the opener of the four-game set, Texas (79-64) moved a half-game behind the Blue Jays in the American League wild-card race. Toronto (80-64) started the day in sole possession of the second of three spots.
“It’s a big series, yeah, sure, but we’re playing really well,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “I love the way the guys are going about it. Today is one game. It doesn’t matter if you lose by six or if you lose by one.
“We’ve been doing some really good things and you move on to tomorrow.”
The Seattle Mariners (79-65) were tied with Texas entering their late Monday game against the Los Angeles Angels, but lost 8-5 in 11 innings. The Mariners are fourth in the wild-card race, a half-game back of the Rangers and a full game behind the Jays.
Dane Dunning (10-6) threw six-plus innings as Texas extended its winning streak to three games. Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt (14-8) allowed nine hits and five earned runs over 5 1/3 frames.
“I was probably overthrowing a little bit too much,” he said. “I wasn’t locating and I wasn’t hitting my spots.”
Cavan Biggio hit a solo homer in the ninth inning for the Blue Jays, who have lost three times in their last 11 games. The Rangers outhit Toronto 11-7.
Texas opened the scoring in the second inning in unusual fashion. With Biggio playing well off the bag at third base, Mitch Garver took a big lead down the third-base line.
Bassitt left the mound to chase him back to the base, but it was his third disengagement of the at-bat. The right-hander was charged with a balk and Garver trotted home.
“It’s the first time where I couldn’t step off and (he) was way too far (off the bag),” Bassitt said. “It was just a weird situation obviously.”
Davis Schneider sparked Toronto’s two-run frame in the bottom half with a one-out single. He moved to second on a Biggio walk and scored on an Alejandro Kirk single.
George Springer singled to plate Biggio but Bo Bichette flew out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Carter tied the game in the third with a no-doubt solo shot for his first career home run.
“Big day by the kid,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “He had a good one today.”
Toronto’s defence shone on several occasions with Biggio providing a highlight moment in the fifth. He corralled a grounder, tagged Josh H. Smith as he dived back to third base and then threw across the diamond to get Marcus Semien by a whisker at first.
Carter, who reached on a single, took second on the play. He scored on a Corey Seager single as the Rangers regained the lead.
Kevin Kiermaier led off the Toronto half with a double and tried to score on a Springer single to left field. Carter threw a strike to home plate and Heim applied the tag as the speedy Kiermaier made a headfirst slide.
The Blue Jays challenged but the call was upheld.
The Rangers chased Bassitt in the sixth inning. After back-to-back one-out singles, Bassitt threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score and he left after Heim’s RBI double.
Toronto scratched out a run before Texas pulled away in the seventh. Heim worked a full count against left-hander Genesis Cabrera before belting his third career grand slam.
“Every game from here on out is important,” Heim said. “No matter who we’re playing or where we’re at, each and every game matters. We’re going to (play) them one game at a time and do everything we can to get the win.”
It was the MLB-best 24th time this season that the Rangers have scored 10 runs or more in a game.
Announced attendance was 23,451 and the game took two hours 54 minutes to play.
Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt left the game in the sixth inning due to lower back muscle spasms.
He was replaced by Spencer Horwitz in the cleanup spot.
Earlier Monday, the Blue Jays reinstated reliever Erik Swanson from the 15-day injured list.
He was sidelined after an Aug. 26 appearance due to thoracic spine inflammation. Fellow right-hander Jay Jackson was optioned to triple-A Buffalo.
Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman participated in individual infield work before the game.
He has been on the injured list since Aug. 28 with a right middle finger sprain.
Veteran pitchers were scheduled to square off Tuesday night.
Toronto has tabbed left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu (3-2, 2.65 earned-run average) while the Rangers will counter with right-hander Max Scherzer (12-6, 3.91).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.
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