Blue Jays fall 5-2 to Cleveland in extra-inning loss

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays revelry in their Rogers Centre return ended with an extra-inning defeat to Cleveland on Monday.

Toronto’s 5-2, 10th-inning loss halted a three-for-three start in their return to their home turf after a 22-month absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Myles Straw scored on a single to left field from Cleveland shortstop Amed Rosario, infielder Jose Ramirez clubbed a homer that hit the left-field foul pole in the extra frame.

Toronto newcomer Brad Hand (5-6), acquired in a trade last Thursday, took the loss with a sloppy 10th inning.

The loss stopped a potential four-game win streak for the Blue Jays (54-49) and spoiled earlier heroics from slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Blue Jays outfielder George Springer led off the sixth inning with a single to centre with Cleveland (52-51) ahead 2-0. With chants of “MVP, MVP” from most of the 14,653 fans at the Rogers Centre, Guerrero hit a 1-0 pitch into the left-field seats for his 34th homer of the year and Blue Jays’ Major League Baseball-leading 160th round-tripper.

Toronto skipper Charlie Montoyo sat Guerrero for the first time this season on Sunday. His playful dugout antics prompted teammates to jokingly tape him to the end of the bench.

Springer was named American League player-of-the-week earlier in the day.

Robbie Ray, pitching for the first time as a Blue Jay at Rogers Centre, was 5-2 in his last seven starts. But the Cleveland lineup worked him deep in the count in many early at-bats resulting in a 64 pitch count after three innings.

Cleveland sent seven batters to the plate in the fourth inning against Ray, loading the bases with one out after singles from Myles Straw and Amed Rosario and a walk to designated hitter Franmil Reyes.

The Blue Jays lefty managed six innings, allowing six hits with three walks and four strikeouts. But after 109 pitches (66 strikes), righty Adam Cimber was called upon to begin the seventh.

A single to right field from Harold Ramirez knocked in Straw, but Toronto outfielder Randal Grichuk threw out Rosario at home plate. However, Cleveland right fielder Oscar Mercado increased his team’s lead to 2-0 with a single to left, scoring Reyes.

After Cimber worked a scoreless seventh inning, new Blue Jays reliever Joakim Soria debuted with a one-two-three eighth, striking out the final two batters. Soria was acquired before the MLB trade deadline on Friday.

Cleveland starter Eli Morgan, 25, made his eighth career start. He lasted six innings with nine strikeouts.

This outing marked the 11th day of a 17-day stretch that will see the Blue Jays play 18 games.

Former Toronto bench coach DeMarlo Hale was in his fourth game as Cleveland’s interim manager. He replaced Terry Francona, who last week took a leave of absence for health-related reasons for the remainder of the season.

Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press