Blue Jays soar back to Toronto after rout

Guerrero clubs 33rd homer as part of 13-run outburst in Fenway finale

July 30th, 2021

On the eve of their long-awaited return to Canada, the Blue Jays closed out the longest “road trip” in franchise history with a blowout win over the Red Sox.

When the Blue Jays take the field at Rogers Centre on Friday night, it will have been 670 days since their last true home game in Toronto. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette were fresh-faced rookies, Hyun Jin Ryu was a Cy Young contender in the NL and George Springer was starring for the Astros. A lot’s changed, but if the Blue Jays want to hit the ground running when they cross the border, they’ll need more of what they showed in Thursday's 13-1 win in Boston.

The Blue Jays chipped away in a game that was never close, but Guerrero always finds a way to make some noise at Fenway Park. His three-run blast in the fifth was the Blue Jays’ lone home run of the night and his 33rd of the season, but few have been as loud. The 436-foot shot over the Green Monster left his bat at 114 mph, and was Guerrero’s fifth home run in 10 games at Fenway this season. Week to week, month to month, Guerrero hasn’t just been one of the game’s best hitters, he's also one of the most consistent.

All nine of the Blue Jays’ starters recorded at least one hit and one RBI, and while it’s difficult to extrapolate meaningful narratives from such a lopsided game, this more balanced effort is something the Blue Jays desperately need.

The top five bats in their order are scary, easily held up against any other lineup in baseball, but the bottom four have failed to keep that momentum going too often of late. Guerrero and friends get the headlines, but a two-double night from Reese McGuire or a two-hit night with a walk from Santiago Espinal will be just as important in close games down the stretch.

“Whenever we do well in games and we score a lot of runs, it’s because that bottom of the lineup does well,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s what they did today. Then it comes back to the Vladdy's and Bo's and so on.”

Overshadowed by the offensive outburst was Ryu, who’s back to his old self after some recent inconsistencies. The lefty cruised through six shutout innings on 87 pitches, allowing just two hits. That lowers Ryu’s ERA to 3.26, and with his fastball and cutter velocity both right where they need to be at this point in the season, Ryu’s changeup is finally back to being a dominant weapon for him.

“All of our players are really excited to get back to Toronto to be able to play in front of those Toronto fans,” Ryu said through a translator. “We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us, a lot of consecutive games without any off days, but we’ve just got to stick in there and be very excited to go back.”

Ryu also performed with a heavy heart, having learned prior to the game that his grandfather had passed away in Korea. 

“My grandfather really loved baseball,” Ryu said. “I was just glad that I was able to perform the way I did for his last game that he could have seen me, hopefully.”

Heading home at 51-48, the Blue Jays are on the outside looking in at the AL East race, where they still trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games, but the AL Wild Card race is still realistic if they go on a run. The 2015 Blue Jays are the ultimate example of creeping into August around .500 before going on an 11-game winning streak after some major trade additions.

The Blue Jays added reliever Brad Hand from the Nationals on Thursday, but there’s still work to be done before Friday’s Trade Deadline, especially with the Yankees adding both Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo in an aggressive push. Just as Thursday’s game concluded, the Red Sox made a big splash of their own, acquiring All-Star slugger Kyle Schwarber from the Nationals, so this race isn’t getting easier by any means.

For now, though, the Blue Jays head north, crossing the border for the first time since Summer Camp ended in July of 2020. This isn’t the traditional boost that teams get at this time of the season, but the Blue Jays want to use it for all it’s worth.

“It’s like making a trade,” Montoyo said. “You’re like, ‘OK, we feel good about this. This will give us momentum.’ We’re going to get there late and we’ve got to go through all of that stuff, but hopefully once we get settled that is going to help a lot. It’s going to be fun.”