TORONTO — Robbie Grossman homered and Max Scherzer threw five-plus shutout innings before leaving with an arm muscle spasm as the Texas Rangers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 on Tuesday.
The Rangers (80-64) extended their winning streak to four games and leapfrogged the Blue Jays (80-65) in the American League wild-card standings.
Texas moved into sole possession of the second of three wild-card spots and secured the tiebreaker advantage over Toronto if the teams finish the season with identical records.
The Blue Jays’ lead over the Seattle Mariners also slipped to just half a game. Seattle was scheduled to host the Los Angeles Angels later Tuesday.
Toronto managed only three hits against Scherzer before the veteran right-hander departed with a right triceps spasm after his 73rd pitch of the evening.
He was replaced by Jose Leclerc, who was pulled in the seventh with a 5-0 lead after giving up a leadoff double to Spencer Horwitz and sacrifice fly to Davis Schneider.
Cavan Biggio welcomed left-hander Brock Burke with an RBI single that put Toronto on the board.
Santiago Espinal followed with a hit to left-centre field but was called out as he tried to stretch it into a double. The Blue Jays challenged the call and it was overturned to the delight of the Rogers Centre crowd of 30,479.
Ernie Clement hit a soft grounder that plated Biggio and moved Espinal to third base. Alejandro Kirk, Toronto’s third straight pinch-hitter, grounded out to end the inning.
Schneider hit a solo shot in the ninth inning off Aroldis Chapman for his eighth homer of the year.
Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu (3-3) allowed three earned runs and five hits over six innings. He had five strikeouts and issued one walk.
Scherzer (13-6) fanned a pair and issued one walk.
The Blue Jays opened their 10-game homestand with a three-game sweep of the lowly Kansas City Royals. After this four-game series with Texas, Toronto will host the Boston Red Sox for a three-game weekend set.
The Rangers’ win streak is their longest since an eight-gamer in early August.
Corey Seager’s single in the fourth inning was the 1,000th hit of his career. He scored on Grossman’s ninth home run of the season.
Seager scored again in the sixth after leading off with a double. He came home on a sacrifice fly by Jonah Heim. Texas added two more runs in the seventh.
Toronto reliever Erik Swanson pitched a clean eighth inning in his first appearance since being reinstated from the 15-day injured list a day earlier.
The Rangers tacked on an insurance run in the ninth against Trevor Richards. The game took two hours 39 minutes to play.
Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman had a full day of pre-game work as he moves closer to a return to game action.
He participated in hitting, running and infield drills and was also slated for some indoor batting cage work. Chapman (finger) has been on the injured list since Aug. 28.
The Blue Jays placed first baseman Brandon Belt on the injured list with lumbar spine muscle spasms.
Outfielder Nathan Lukes was recalled from triple-A Buffalo.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rick Vaive threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Joining him near the mound were retired NHL players Gary Leeman, Mike Gartner, Steve Thomas and Nik Antropov.
Left-handers are tabbed to square off Wednesday night as the four-game series continues.
The Blue Jays will turn to Yusei Kikuchi (9-5, 3.57 earned-run average) while the Rangers counter with Jordan Montgomery (8-11, 3.62).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2023.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press