Early run support gives Blue Jays' starter Jose Berrios win over former club

TORONTO — Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Twins infielder Josh Donaldson met at home plate to sign their jerseys and exchange them following Toronto's 5-3 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

"He told me to stay focused," Guerrero Jr., revealed later.

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Donaldson had showered Guerrero with praise Saturday.

Donaldson opined the Jays' first baseman should win American League MVP honours over Los Angeles Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani.

Donaldson won the AL MVP in 2015 when he played for Toronto.

"What can I say?" Guerrero said. "Coming from Josh, it's unbelievable. He's a former MVP."

Guerrero recalled how helpful Donaldson was in spring training with defensive and offensive tutelage when the former was a teenager.

Donaldson had remarked that the MVP winner should be the player who helps his team win the most when the race for the award is close.

The Blue Jays (84-65) certainly have been winning.

They've gone 15-3 in September — the best in Major League Baseball — and tightened their grip on second place in the AL wild-card spot race because the New York Yankees (83-67) were thumped 11-1 by Cleveland on Sunday.

Toronto took a one-and-a-half game lead on the Yankees entering the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Blue Jays have 13 games remaining to New York's 12.

"We're enjoying this very much," Guerrero said. "We know where we are in the wild-card race.

"If anybody doesn't do their job, we're going to be there to pick them up.

"It doesn't matter if you're a position player or a pitcher, we have respect for each other."

Guerrero was right in the middle of Toronto's five-run, first-inning outburst that staked starter Jose Berrios (12-8) enough offence to shut down his former club in front of 14,601 at Rogers Centre.

The Jays sent 10 batters to the plate in Sunday's first inning against Twins starter Luke Farrell (1-1), the son of former Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

Second baseman Marcus Semien started the barrage doubling down the left-field line with one out to then score on Guerrero Jr.'s single.

Shortstop Bo Bichette then bashed a two-run shot for his 26th homer.

A single to right from Teoscar Hernandez and an infield hit by Corey Dickerson put runners on first and second.

They scored on back-to-back singles from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Breyvic Valera.

Gurriel increased his RBI total to a team-leading 27 in September.

Before arriving in Toronto via a July 30 trade with the Twins, the 27-year-old Berrios spent the first five-and-a-half years of his career in Minnesota.

"I felt like I was playing back in Puerto Rico in my backyard against a lot of friends," Berrios said. "They know me, so I had to make more quality pitches."

Berrios surrendered three runs on four hits, gave up a walk and struck out six over six and two-thirds innings of work.

He still wears the Twins red glove on his left hand on the mound.

Berrios has won four of his last five starts but struggled the fourth inning.

With one out, he hit Donaldson in the right forearm. Miguel Sano moved Donaldson to third with a double to centre.

Shortstop Nick Gordon then scored his teammate with a double down the left-field line.

The Twins moved a run closer with a homer from Ben Rortvedt, their ninth hitter in the order, with two out in the seventh inning.

The 2-1 curveball was Berrios's 100th and final pitch for the afternoon.

The Blue Jays placed veteran pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu on the 10-day injured list with a mild neck strain before the game.

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo expects Ryu to miss only one start.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2021.

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