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Rangers complete four-game sweep of Blue Jays as Toronto’s playoff hopes fade

TORONTO — Corey Seager had a home run and a two-run double as the Texas Rangers beat the Blue Jays 9-2 on Thursday, further dimming Toronto’s post-season hopes.

The loss dropped the Blue Jays to a game and a half back of the idle Seattle Mariners in the race for the third and final American League wild-card berth.

Jonah Heim had a solo shot as Texas (82-64) completed a four-game sweep at Rogers Centre and won its sixth straight game. Marcus Semien added an RBI double, Nathaniel Lowe singled in two runs, and Josh Smith had a sacrifice fly.

The Rangers started the series outside of a wild-card spot but moved up to the second spot behind the Tampa Bay Rays thanks to the sweep.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out three. Eovaldi was on a limited pitch count, so he exited the game after 3 1/3 innings with Cody Bradford (4-1), Jose Leclerc, Will Smith and Jonathan Hernandez coming on in relief.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s two-run homer was all the offence the Blue Jays (80-67) could muster. Bo Bichette had a single and a double to break out of a small hitting slump.

Kevin Gausman (11-9) gave up four runs on six hits and six walks, striking out five, in 4 2/3 innings of work. Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, Trevor Richards, Yimi Garcia and Bowden Francis came out of Toronto’s bullpen.

Texas got to Gausman early, with Seager taking him deep on an 87.2 m.p.h. splitter, only the fourth pitch of the game. Seager’s 31st home run of the season flew 422 feet into right-centre field.

Bichette got his first hit of the series in the bottom of the first, singling to left. That ended a four-game drought that saw the all-star shortstop go 0 for 15.

Guerrero capitalized on Bichette’s hit, crushing an 81.3 m.p.h. slider from Eovaldi in the next at bat. His 22nd home run of the season went 426 feet into the second deck at Rogers Centre, delighting the 37,594 in attendance.

Seager struck again in the second when he hit the ball to deep left field, sending Blue Jays outfielder Whit Merrifield to the warning track. Merrifield caught the ball but when he collided with the wall it popped out of his glove, allowing Ezequiel Duran and Semien to score for a 3-2 Rangers lead.

Texas scored in a third consecutive inning when Heim hit his 17th homer of the season. It came on a 95.7 m.p.h. four-seam fastball, the first pitch he saw in the at bat, flying 425 feet to centre field for a 4-2 lead.

Toronto’s wheels came off in the eighth.

Semien doubled to plate Duran, then Lowe singled to score Evan Carter and Semien. Garcia issued a bases-loaded walk to Robbie Grossman, all before the Blue Jays had recorded a single out.

Smith hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to bring home Lowe.

Fans at Rogers Centre booed louder and louder with each run-scoring play in the inning. It was the second game in a row the Toronto faithful turned on their hometown team.

CHAPMAN RETURNS — Third baseman Matt Chapman was activated from the Blue Jays’ 10-day injured list hours before the game. The Platinum Glove Award winner had been out since Aug. 28 with a right middle finger sprain.

ON DECK — José Berríos (10-10) will start on Friday when Toronto opens a three-game series with Boston.

Brayan Bello (12-8) is scheduled for the Red Sox.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press