Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turned on a pitch and held a home run pose for an extra beat to watch his rainbow blast soar in the air.
A home-field power shortage behind him, the Blue Jays slugger appears to be back in form at Rogers Centre. It’s a frightening prospect for the opposition, as the San Francisco Giants learned Thursday night.
Guerrero’s two-run shot in the sixth inning off Keaton Winn put Toronto on the board and the Blue Jays hung on for a 2-1 win in the rubber match of a three-game series.
“I’m just trying to keep trusting myself and looking for the pitch that I can handle, and put good contact on it,” Guerrero said via interpreter Hector Lebron.
Chris Bassitt (8-5) had a career-high 12 strikeouts over six shutout innings and Erik Swanson, Tim Mayza and Jordan Romano threw an inning apiece in relief. Toronto (45-37) won for the sixth time in eight games.
With Brandon Belt aboard after a two-out walk, Guerrero took a 2-2 splitter from Winn (0-1) over the wall in left field for his 12th homer of the season.
Baseballs Beware. <br><br>He’s ready for the Derby 💥 <a href=” <a href=”https://t.co/LIBQbw73kQ”>pic.twitter.com/LIBQbw73kQ</a>
Guerrero hit his first nine homers on the road this year but has three blasts on the team’s current nine-game homestand.
“Sometimes when you’re — I don’t want to say struggling — but maybe trying to do a little too much, you forget how good you are,” said Toronto manager John Schneider.
“Moments like that hopefully just let you take a deep breath and understand that he’s as talented as he is.”
Romano, from Markham, Ont., survived a nervous ninth. He gave up a leadoff double to Patrick Bailey and RBI single to Blake Sabol before nailing down his 24th save.
The Giants (45-36) have dropped two straight after winning 10 road games in a row.
The Rogers Centre crowd of 27,761 let out a roar in the third when J.D. Davis was tossed by umpire John Tumpane for arguing a called strike. Manager Gabe Kapler left the bench to voice his thoughts and was ejected as well.
“I never expect umpires to be perfect,” Kapler said. “I do expect them to have patience though, and I didn’t really feel like he had a lot of patience with J.D.”
The interaction continued in the fourth when Tumpane interrupted an at-bat to walk over to the San Francisco dugout. He exchanged words briefly with bench coach Kai Correa.
Bassitt, who changed his routine somewhat to allow catcher Alejandro Kirk to call most of the game, used his extensive pitch repertoire to his advantage. He gave up three hits and three walks in his sixth scoreless outing of the year.
The Giants had some chances but couldn’t deliver the clutch hit they were looking for. Bassitt struck out the side in the sixth inning to bring his pitch count to 104.
TWELVE strikeouts for <a href=” a NEW career-high 👏 <a href=”https://t.co/gAuwVolDI6″>pic.twitter.com/gAuwVolDI6</a>
It was a strong bounceback after giving up at least four runs in each of his last three starts — all team losses.
“I don’t think it happens without failure honestly,” Bassitt said. “I hate going through it but at the end of the day, I think it’s beautiful.”
In the ninth, Espinal made a brilliant one-hop tag when Sabol tried to steal second.
Toronto looked to have the game in hand but third baseman Matt Chapman made a throwing error that gave the Giants another chance. Romano got Brandon Crawford on a flyout to end it.
The retractable roof was open under blue skies but some lingering wildfire smoke hung in the air. The game took two hours 15 minutes to play.
Kirk was reinstated from the 10-day injured list (left hand laceration) earlier in the day. He batted eighth in the lineup.
The Blue Jays will kick off a weekend series Friday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (8-5, 3.60 earned-run average) was scheduled to start the opener against Boston left-hander James Paxton (3-1, 3.19), a native of Ladner, B.C.
Guerrero Jr. to compete in Home Run Derby
Guerrero has listened to Blue Jays fans — and his family — and is returning to the Home Run Derby.
Guerrero will compete in the slugging exhibition on July 10 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. It will be Guerrero’s second time competing in the event after he set a record with 91 home runs as a rookie in 2019.
“My family, they’ve been asking me for the last two years to participate,” Guerrero said after taking batting practice on Thursday. “They asked me again this year and I said ‘O.K., if you guys want me to go, I’ll be there this year.”
WATCH | Guerrero Jr. falls in 2019 HR Derby final despite historic performance:
No Blue Jays were named to the American League’s roster on Thursday night when the all-star starting lineups were announced.
They’ll get a second chance on Sunday when the complete all-star rosters, including pitchers and reserve position players, will be announced for both teams. Pitchers and reserves — totalling 23 players for each side — will be selected by a players’ ballot and selections made by the commissioner’s office.