TORONTO — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gave the Toronto Blue Jays a reason to celebrate. Not that they needed it.
Guerrero hit a two-run homer in the third inning and George Springer had a three-run shot as part of a four-run sixth as the Blue Jays routed the Boston Red Sox 9-0 on Friday. The emphatic win came before a champagne-soaked party in Toronto's clubhouse that had been planned for more than a day after the Blue Jays had clinched a post-season berth on their day off.
"My thought was 'you know what? We've got to win this game to celebrate,'" said Guerrero through translator Hector ( Tito) Lebron. "That's the way my mind was before the game and thank God we won the game and we had a big celebration."
Toronto locked up a playoff spot Thursday afternoon when the Baltimore Orioles lost to Boston 5-3. However, the Blue Jays didn't have a game scheduled on Thursday, meaning they couldn't celebrate as a team.
Interim manager John Schneider said before Friday's win that his team intended to celebrate clinching a post-season berth, regardless of their result against Boston.
After beating the Red Sox, the Blue Jays gathered in the centre of their tarped-over clubhouse in the bowels of Rogers Centre. Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez got up on a table, waving a pirate flag, as his teammates decked out in matching playoff T-shirts danced around him in a circle.
Schneider made a speech to his team congratulating them on their accomplishments and then the corks started flying, with champagne being sprayed around the room and beer getting dumped on laughing teammates.
"Whether it's planned or not, you've got to enjoy it, embrace it, cherish it," said Schneider, who joked that he had more booze on him than in him at that point. "It doesn't happen very often, doesn't happen all the time.
"Hopefully it happens more this year but I'm happy that they're having fun."
The Blue Jays have five more games left in the regular season with Toronto still vying for home-field advantage in the American League wild card series. After the three-game set against Boston, the Blue Jays will travel to Baltimore to close out the regular season.
"Let's celebrate, but we're not done yet," said Guerrero.
Raimel Tapia had a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning for Toronto (88-69). Bo Bichette had two hits, driving in one run, to reach 48 hits in the month of September to set a new Blue Jays record.
Alejandro Kirk grounded out in the first but gave Springer ample time to run home. Whit Merrifield made it 2-0 in the second with his sacrifice fly cashing in Tapia.
"You can't really write it any better," said Schneider. "Huge bats. Home runs from the usual suspects. Kind of just how we win right there."
Alek Manoah (16-7) pitched six innings, giving up just two hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Yusei Kikuchi threw three scoreless innings of relief for the first save of his Major League Baseball career.
Manoah said that the post-game party was on his mind before his start and that it was important to him to earn the right to celebrate.
"The biggest thing was let's have a good time, but with a win," said Manoah after a team photo in the Rogers Centre's infield. "I feel like it would have been really terrible to get our butt kicked out there and then have to come in and party.
"I think the biggest thing was being able to just lock it in and understanding that the win comes first and then the party comes after."
Nick Pivetta (10-12) gave up four runs on six hits and three walks, striking out two, over five innings of work for Boston (75-82).
Reliever Tyler Danish allowed four more runs, before Franklin German finished out the game for the Red Sox.
Guerrero's home run in the third made it 4-0 for Toronto. He took an 86.4 m.p.h. change-up from Pivetta into the second deck at Rogers Centre to the delight of the 37,283 in attendance. Guerrero's 31st home run of the season also scored Bichette.
The impressive moon shot flew 447 feet with an exit velocity of 117.5 m.p.h., the second-longest home run of Guerrero's MLB career.
"Wow," said Manoah. "Looked like a line drive in the gap and then it just kept going. It was crazy."
ORANGE SHIRT DAY — The Blue Jays honoured the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation before and during the game. The Canadian national anthem was sung in English, French, and Blackfoot and Dolores (McLeod) Naponse, a residential school survivor from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, near Sudbury Ont., threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
ON DECK — Ross Stripling (9-4) will get the start on Saturday afternoon as Toronto continues its three-game series against Boston. Brayan Bello (2-7) will take the mound for the Red Sox.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press