Doubles lift Blue Jays over Rays in Toronto’s first Canada Day home game since 2019

Toronto Blue Jays’ first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr, right, slides to second base for a double-run double scoring George Springer and Bo Bichette, for a tag by Tampa Bay Rays’ second baseman Isaac Paredes in American League baseball action in the third inning in Toronto on Friday, July 1, 2022.Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press

As Blue Jays illuminator Max Castillo concluded Toronto’s win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, thousands of fans at Rogers Center began chanting “O Canada.”

The spontaneous patriotic gesture moved Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who was relieved to see his team drive 9-2 past Tampa 9-2 on Friday in the Blue Jays’ first home game on Canada Day since 2019.

Canada’s only Major League Baseball franchise played most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons in Dunedin, Florida and Buffalo, NY due to COVID-19 regulations.

“This is one of those things that reminds you of how great it is to play for Canada,” said Montoyo. “Playing for a country is great.”

Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk hit three consecutive doubles in a five-run third inning when the Blue Jays (44-33) hit a total of five doubles in the game.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a solo homerun in the seventh and George Springer batted in two runs with a single in the sixth.

Cavan Biggio, who played for the Jays in the 2019 Canada Day game, said Friday’s sold-out crowd of 49,445 was a reflection of how far the Blue Jays have come in the past three years.

“In 2020 and 2021 we have definitely missed this spot,” said Biggio, who reached base four times and scored twice in the win.

“Finally being back and experiencing that energy we’ve all been looking forward to every night is special to say the least.”

Rogers Center was decked out for Canada Day, with red and white flags hanging from the second deck and all the scoreboards in national colors.

The first 15,000 fans through the gates received free red Blue Jays jerseys with the Springer name on the back, adding to the stadium’s festive atmosphere.

Jose Berrios (6-4) gave up two runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings. He struckout three.

Trent Thornton, Sergio Romo, Max Castillo came in relief for the Blue Jays.

Berrios pitched for the first time in his career in Toronto on Canada Day. He was touched by the energy of the audience.

“I’ve heard a lot about this day, but it was a bit emotional to be here and get the chance to pitch this day,” he said.

Designated hitter Harold Ramirez had an RBI double when Tampa Bay (40-36) dropped its fourth game in a row.

Corey Kluber (3-5) lasted only three innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and two walks.

Phoenix Sanders and David McKay, who gave up four runs, came out of the Rays bullpen. Rightfielder Brett Phillips threw Tampa’s last frame.

The Rays opened the score in the second inning when catcher Rene Pinto grounded out, but gave Ramirez time to score.

Bichette came to the plate in the third inning with the bases loaded and doubled from the wall into rightfield to score Gurriel and Biggio.

On the next pitch, Guerrero doubled down the leftfield-line to bring in Springer and Bichette.

Guerrero’s doppelganger brought Kirk to the plate with fans chanting “MVP” for the best vote-catcher among American League catchers in all-star balloting.

His goal also went down the left field line to bring in Guerrero for a 5-1 lead.

“Our pitching gives us a chance and our attack continues, even against a pitcher like Kluber,” said Montoyo.

“That’s exactly what happened. Berrios kept us in the game and then the attack started.”

Ramirez narrowed Toronto’s lead in the fifth, doubling to deep left midfield to give Kevin Kiermaier enough time to score from first base.

Springer scored more runs for the Blue Jays in the sixth inning when his single dodged Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz and came down for a single.

That scored Gurriel and Santiago Espinal for a 7-2 lead.

Guerrero’s groundout brought Biggio home from third place for the third RBI of the game for the Toronto first baseman.

Gurriel came at the plate in the eighth inning with two outs and nobody on it.

He took McKay’s 79.4 mph curveball to left center field for the game’s final score.

MARTIN HONORED (Neth.) — Former Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin threw the opening pitch. Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Martin earned four all-star appearances in his 14 years in Major League Baseball. He played four seasons with the Blue Jays, including the team’s post-season runs in 2015 and 2016.

NEXT — Kevin Gausman (6-6) will take the mound for Toronto on Saturday afternoon in the first game of a doubleheader with Tampa Bay. Shane McClanahan gets the start for the Rays.