Vladdy bids Buffalo adieu with 32nd blast

Guerrero, Springer and Hernández all go deep in last game at Sahlen Field

July 22nd, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Blue Jays went blow for blow with the Red Sox on Wednesday night in Buffalo, but the finale of their Sahlen Field residency was another dose of reality from an American League East rival.

With a 7-4 loss on the heels of Monday’s 13-4 blowout, the Blue Jays close the door on the most unique chapter in their franchise’s history with plenty of work still in front of them. They’ve won the games they’re supposed to, like a commanding weekend sweep in which they outscored the Rangers, 25-2, but they’ll need to punch up in their division and the Wild Card race over the final two-plus months of the season.

Robbie Ray, who pitched the opener in Buffalo on June 1, fell back into old habits with the home run ball, allowing three to the Red Sox. That’s something he’s accepted to a certain extent in 2021 as he pounds the zone -- and his drastically lowered walk rate makes most of them solo shots -- but they can pile up on nights like Wednesday against a hot lineup. It’s a blip on the radar for Ray, though, whose ERA sits at 3.12.

“The consistency wasn’t there tonight,” Ray said. “Whether it was the fastball or the slider, I would throw a really good one, then throw one that wasn’t so good. I think that was the biggest thing. I felt like my stuff was good for the most part, it was just the consistency with it. That was it.”

The Blue Jays made their push in the sixth, with back-to-back home runs from George Springer and Teoscar Hernández, but it wasn’t quite enough. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched a rocket of his own earlier in the game, too, a 430-footer to the opposite field for his 32nd home run of the season. That couldn’t match the Red Sox, though, who launched 11 homers in two games this week at Sahlen Field.

“There’s no secret to what just happened; we just couldn’t keep them in the ballpark,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “They hit their home runs and that’s why they won these two games.”

Wednesday’s loss moves the Blue Jays to eight games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and 4 1/2 games back of the A’s for the second AL Wild Card spot. It also moves them to 4-7 against the Red Sox this season, along with a 6-6 record against the Yankees and 5-8 against the Rays. Oddly enough, it’s Toronto's 13-2 record in Interleague Play that’s really fueled the club this season.

“It’s all about pitching,” Montoyo said. “I’ve always said that from the beginning. It’s about pitching. You win with pitching and defense. We just didn’t pitch good against these guys the last two days, and that’s why they got us.”

The road ahead brings more of that with three games against the NL East-leading Mets before the Blue Jays face the Red Sox eight times over two weeks from July 26-Aug. 8, including Boston’s first trip to Rogers Centre since 2019. Those games get more important with each passing day, and if the Blue Jays are going to climb the ladder in the AL East, they’ll need to go through, well, the AL East itself.

Now begins a new chapter, in Toronto’s third home of the season. It’s another significant change, but gets the Blue Jays to where they’ve wanted to be all along. If there’s any team built to relocate -- again -- it’s this one.

“Part of the game,” Montoyo said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve been playing good, it’s just these past two games, we didn’t pitch well and we paid the price, but we’ve been playing good.”

Jansen exits with hamstring injury
There was more bad news on Wednesday as Danny Jansen exited the game in the seventh with right hamstring tightness. After rounding first and starting for second base on a double, Jansen pulled up and was clearly uncomfortable as he exited. The Blue Jays will evaluate Jansen further, but this is the same hamstring that Jansen strained in early June, which cost him nearly a month.

Alejandro Kirk, who was serving as the designated hitter for Triple-A Buffalo, was removed from his game soon after Jansen left with the injury, and he’s clearly an option. Kirk had two hits, including a two-run double in that game, and has the most offensive upside of Toronto’s MLB-ready catchers by a significant margin.