Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slammed in four runs with a pair of homers, but he shared the spotlight with his Blue Jays teammates George Springer and Robbie Ray on Monday.
The Blue Jays (69-61) won for the third time in a row, handing the lowly Baltimore Orioles (40-90) a 7-3 loss before 14,406 at Rogers Centre – thanks to Guerrero’s power, Springer’s return and Ray’s continued excellence on the mound.
Ray (10-5) struck out 10 to win for the first time since July 28. The lefty was the victim of five consecutive no-decisions, including a brilliant 14 strikeout effort against the Chicago White Sox in his last outing.
“He’s been our horse,” Springer said.
“He gave us everything he had, and he does that every time he has the ball. He has a presence about him that rubs off on us a little bit.”
Springer does, too. This season, the Blue Jays outfielder has been limited to 50 games because of first-half quad and oblique ailments and a recent two-week stretch on the injured list with a left knee sprain.
The Blue Jays, however, have gone 30-20 with him in the lineup. So he will fill the designated hitter’s role until he is deemed fit enough to play the outfield. But he did surprise his teammates by stealing second base, the back end of a double steal in the third inning with newcomer Jarrod Dyson, who swiped third.
“I don’t really have an explanation for it,” Springer said. “It wasn’t something I planned to do, I just kind of did it.
“Physically, it was a good sign.”
Springer sparked a three-run sixth inning with a lead-off single to right. With the Blue Jays behind 2-1 to the team with the worst record in Major League Baseball, Springer scored on Bo Bichette’s punch double past Baltimore second baseman Jorge Mateo. Teoscar Hernandez then knocked in two more runs with a double. Bichette scored even though third base coach Luis Rivera had put up the stop sign.
“He’s got that veteran presence at the top of our lineup,” Ray said of Springer’s return. “He’s been there before, and he knows how to grind. So to have him back not only from an on-field perspective but from a mental perspective for the team is huge.”
Ray, meanwhile, has gone seven or more innings in each of his last four outings, and by reaching the sixth inning, he hit the 1,000th-inning career mark.
He has earned the trust of pitching coach Pete Walker, bullpen coach Matt Buschmann and manager Charlie Montoyo.
“I feel the trust is there, and it’s only grown,” said Ray, who celebrates the one-year anniversary of his trade to Toronto from Tampa Bay on Tuesday. “I feel like Charlie’s allowed me to go deeper and push the envelope a little bit.
“Being able to go out there and put up zeros and give my team a chance to win on a nightly basis. I think that’s the main goal.”
Ray gave up a one-out homer to Baltimore rookie first baseman Ryan Mountcastle in the first inning, only to have Guerrero pull Toronto even with his first homer to left in the fourth inning.
A Mountcastle infield hit in the sixth inning knocked in Kelvin Gutierrez for a 2-1 lead. But three runs in each of the sixth and seventh innings gave the Blue Jays their 13th win in 19 games since their Rogers Centre return on July 30.
Guerrero’s three-run blast in the seventh was his 38th homer of the season, but only his fourth in 28 games in August.