MINNEAPOLIS — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a three-run homer, Teoscar Hernández homered for the second straight day and the Toronto Blue Jays cruised to a 9-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Whit Merrifield, who revealed earlier in the day that he’s now vaccinated against COVID-19 and cleared to play in Canada, had two hits in his Blue Jays debut after being acquired from Kansas City for two minor leaguers at the trade deadline.
“I think if you can line it up, they all kind of have that damage potential,” Toronto interim manager John Schneider said of his lineup with the addition of Merrifield. “But if you can get guys on base and put the ball in play like we’ve been preaching all year – I know we had six walks, five in the first five innings and got nothing of it – but when you put that combination of on-base and damage together, it’s pretty good.”
Toronto won for the 12th time in 15 games and got six effective innings from Alek Manoah.
Manoah (12-5) allowed two runs on two hits but tied a season high with four walks.
The first-time All-Star was hit by a comebacker for the second start in a row. He left his previous start with an elbow contusion after being hit. Thursday, he was hit in the right triceps area in the fourth inning for Minnesota’s first hit but remained in the game.
“It’s fine,” Manoah said. “We’ll see tomorrow but got me a little higher this time on the triceps.”
Twins starter Sonny Gray also had a no-hitter working into the middle innings before Cavan Biggio had a two-out single in the fifth. Gray was done after five innings, giving up just one hit, but he walked a season-high five batters.
Emilio Pagán (3-5) relieved Gray and allowed three runs — two earned — on four hits in an inning.
“We added some good arms to our ‘pen and I think we’re going to see some really good production from our bullpen in these last two months of the season,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said, regarding the trade additions of Jorge López and Michael Fulmer. “I think our bullpen is going to end up being a strength of this team down the stretch. We didn’t see it all come together today, but I actually do think that is going to be the case.”
Hernández sent Pagán’s offering to the back of the second deck in left field to start a three-run sixth. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Merrifield added RBI singles. Guerrero’s 22nd homer capped a six-run eighth.
Jose Miranda had two RBIs for Minnesota on a hit-by-pitch and groundout. Jake Cave hit his first home run in his third game this season.
Guerrero’s home run was a line drive to left field, hit 115.4 MPH according to Statcast. He had two hits in the game and is hitting .314 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 57 games since the start of July.
“I’m feeling great right now,” Guerrero said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “It’s a lot of ups and downs, but I feel healthy.”
The Twins announced a crowd of 39,030, the largest for a regular season game at Target Field since Sept. 17, 2019. It was the second sellout of the season with country music artist Cole Swindell performing a concert on the field after the game.
Blue Jays: George Springer returned as the designated hitter after missing three games with an elbow injury. Schneider said Springer was “feeling better” and checked off a list of items the team wanted to see before putting him back in the lineup. Schneider said the injury is something the team will likely have to manage the rest of the season.
Twins: OF Kyle Garlick was placed on the 10-day injured list before the game with a right ribcage contusion. Garlick was injured when he collided with the left-field wall in San Diego on July 29. OF Gilberto Celestino was reinstated from the paternity list. … Manager Rocco Baldelli said it’s possible OF Max Kepler (right fifth toe fracture) could return to the lineup over the weekend. … RHP Jorge Alcala had right elbow arthroscopic debridement surgery Wednesday and is expected to be ready for spring training next year.
RHP Tyler Mahle will make his Twins debut Friday after being acquired at the trade deadline from Cincinnati for three prospects. Mahle was 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 19 games for the Reds. Toronto counters with former Minnesota RHP José Berríos (8-4, 4.96). Berríos has faced the Twins three times since the 2021 trade deadline deal, including a seven-inning, two-run start this season.