TORONTO — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had an opportunity to extend his career-high hit streak to 23 games in the seventh inning Sunday.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger came to the plate for his fourth and final at-bat with runners on first and second with two out and the home side trailing the Cleveland Guardians by three runs.
But Guerrero bounced out to third to go 0-for-4 in the rubber match of the three-game series that saw Toronto drop a 7-2 decision before 41,002 spectators at Rogers Centre.
"That's a matchup we wanted, with him being the tying run," Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. "It just didn't go our way."
The Guardians (61-53) were victorious for the sixth time in seven games while the Blue Jays (61-52) have won just twice in eight outings.
Guerrero was frustrated when he didn't swing on a 93.5 mile-an-hour, four-seam fastball from Cleveland starter Shane Bieber (8-6) to make the count 1-2. The next pitch, a slider, ended the inning.
"That's the old adage of baseball; get a good pitch and don't miss it," Schneider said.
Despite the 22-game hit streak, Guerrero has gone a dismal 5-for-26 (.192) in his last six games. In addition, he hasn't homered in seven contests.
"My heart was in my throat," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "Out of respect for what Vladdy can do, I was nervous.
"Biebs did a terrific job."
Cleveland's starting pitching held the Blue Jays to just four runs in the three-game series as the Guardians outscored Toronto 16-4.
Bieber went seven innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.
Toronto starter Kevin Gausman (8-9) lasted 4 2/3 innings, surrendering five runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts on 98 pitches.
"They did a good job running up my pitch count," Gausman said. "We have faced a lot of good pitching lately."
The Guardians scored a run in the first, second and fourth innings and two more in the fifth to end Gausman's day.
Shortstop Amed Rosario hit a solo homer in the first. Catcher Austin Hedges singled in a run in the second and doubled in another in the fourth.
Josh Naylor, of Mississauga, Ont., knocked in a run in the fifth with a single to right field. He's now 8-for-27 (.296) with two doubles, a homer and five runs-batted in over six career games in Toronto.
Owen Miller doubled in Cleveland's fifth run later in the inning.
Cavan Biggio was in right field for Toronto and made a fantastic sliding catch, crashing into the side wall on Myles Straw in the sixth. But he misplayed doubles to Hedges in the fourth and Miller's second of the game in the fifth.
The Guardians touched reliever Trent Thornton for two runs in the ninth, thanks to RBI singles from Rosario and Jose Ramirez. The two-run inning ended a streak of 13 run-less innings for the Toronto bullpen in the series.
The Blue Jays tied the game in the first on a Teoscar Hernandez double and added a run in the fifth on a Guerrero groundout to short.
Stripling, Springer Updates
Toronto right-hander Ross Stripling (5-3) will be activated Wednesday and start in place of the struggling Jose Berrios in the series finale against the Baltimore Orioles. Berrios will start against the Yankees in New York on Thursday. Stripling (hip strain) tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits in a rehab start with Triple-A Buffalo for a 3-1 win against Syracuse on Friday.
George Springer (right elbow) is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Monday.
The Blue Jays continue their six-day, six-game homestand with the opener of a three-game set against the Orioles on Monday. Despite back-to-back losses to the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore is only 1 1/2 games behind the Rays in the battle for the third and final wild-card spot in the American League.
The Orioles have gone 24-13 in their last 37 outings. Toronto left-hander Yusi Kikuchi (4-6) will face right-hander Kyle Bradish (1-4) in the opener.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2022.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press