Blue Jays seize moment against struggling Red Sox

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As a man accustomed to wearing Yankees pinstripes at this time of year, Blue Jays reliever Chad Green has a handle on what it takes to navigate the pressures of baseball’s playoff stretch drive.

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“I’m not saying you have to treat it like a playoff game but it’s as close as possible,” Green said prior to what felt like a must-win 3-0 Jays victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night at the Rogers Centre.

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“You talk all year like it’s a marathon, but now it’s a sprint. That’s exactly what it is. We always play with a sense of urgency and everybody has the ability to bring their level of focus up.

“Not to say that every game is a must-win, but you have to treat it that way.”

The Jays certainly brought a sense of urgency to the first of 15 remaining games, all against divisional opponents.

It started with a three-run homer from Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the third inning, his second in as many nights and what if the struggling superstar suddenly heats up?

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And then there was starter Jose Berrios, who was superb in pitching seven strikeout innings, restoring order to the stellar Jays rotation. The biggest statement Berrios might have made was following up Guerrero’s big blast by striking out the side in the Red Sox fifth.

“We are in the last (stretch) and we have to keep pushing,” said Berrios, who tossed his sixth scoreless outing of the season. “Tonight I helped the team get the win and now we have to keep the streak (going.)”

One win won’t necessarily change the Jays’ trajectory — and there are still serious questions about the team’s lack of run production — but there’s no denying the significance of the bounce-back after the shoddy effort in losing four in a row to the Texas Rangers.

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It the Jays are to be successful in their playoff quest, there will be a need to opportunistic. A struggling Sox outfit, no doubt weary from playing in a doubleheader back in Boston on Thursday, certainly qualified as vulnerable.

With all the understandable angst in the aftermath of the debacle against the Rangers, there was a tinge of dire attached to Friday’s assignment. And with the win, surely a modest sense of relief.

“We’re pretty good at turning the page,” Guerrero said afterwards. “It was a tough series against the Rangers. The key is to leave everything in the past and keep working hard.

“I think we’re in a good position right now. We just have to stay positive and keep working at it.”

In reality, the Jays likely won’t need to be world beaters to get into the post-season, but it was important for winning baseball to return in a hurry. With the Rangers blown out in Cleveland, the Jays moved back to within 1.5 games of Texas and a game behind Seattle, pending the result of their late-night game against the Dodgers.

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There are still challenges offensively and it’s only one win, but given the mood and the momentum from earlier in the week, it felt like a big win.

“It’s not panicking and not letting the moment get too big,” Green said. “It seems like the best teams are able to make the game just slow down for them. It’s about not putting too much pressure on yourself and going out and doing what you did all year.”


What a night for Berrios, a proud Puerto Rican who relished the opportunity to pitch on Roberto Clemente day.

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Getting the start on the day honouring his hero for the first time in his career, Berrios delivered with a stellar seven innings, allowing just five hits while striking out eight.

“It was special,” Berrios said of the occasion, that also included his bobblehead giveaway and his young son Diego’s birthday. “I was so happy, so excited, so proud about it. Tonight I did pretty good work on the mound. A lot of good things happening.”

After Berrios exited, Jordan Hicks took over in the eighth setting up closer Jordan Romano to deliver a 1-2-3 ninth for his 35th save.


It wasn’t necessarily a thing of beauty for the Jays, who aren’t exactly lighting it up on offence. While Guerrero’s homer was a thing of beauty, it was the only inning in which the Jays scored … Over the previous three games, in fact, the Jays have got a runner across in just two innings — the first on Thursday and the third on Friday, all five runs driven in by Guerrero homers … Guerrero hit homers in back-to-back games for the first time since July 22-23 Schneider on Guerrero: “His timing definitely looks better and his takes look a little bit better.”… Prior to the game, the Jays recalled righty reliever Nate Pearson from triple-A Buffalo, sending heavily used Bowden Francis down to the Bisons … Baby steps but the Jays improved to 13-25 vs. AL East foes and 4-7 vs. Boston this season … Don’t look now, but the top of the AL East race has changed significantly with the Rays beating the Orioles to move into a tie for the lead. How does that affect the Jays? With six more games against Tampa, suddenly those contests will have significantly more meaning for the Rays.


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