Ottawa Citizen


Latest heartbreak­ing loss to Rays adds exclamatio­n mark to difficulti­es in Dunedin


The bags were packed outside of TD Ballpark on Monday and the moving trucks loaded as the season-long Blue Jays road show was folding its Dunedin tent.

And not a moment too soon, given how things have gone this past week.

In the afternoon, a 14-8 extra-innings victory by the Rays sent the transient Jays on the road with six-consecutiv­e losses, all of them to division opponents and all of them at their spring training home.

They'll finish their tenancy at the minor-league park with a mediocre 10-11 record and questions dogging their overworked bullpen.

The departure didn't come without some Victoria Day fireworks and a near comeback, but ended with a familiar late-game failure.

As the reigning American League champion Rays extended their season-high win streak to 11, the Jays have now fallen all the way back to .500 (23-23) and have tumbled to fourth place in the AL East.

The Rays once again inflicted a late-inning knifing on the Jays, spoiling a five-run Toronto comeback in regulation time and another two-run rally in extras. The Rays almost had it sealed in the 10th, after scoring a pair off of reliever Anthony Castro, but the Jays' Marcus Semien responded with a two-run homer to prolong the agony.

That set the stage for Francisco Mejia, who followed up his game-winning grand slam on Friday with a two-RBI single in the 11th, part of a ridiculous seven-run inning for the visitors.

There is one Jays player who may be sorry to see the minor league park in the rear-view.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. loves hitting there and showed it once again as he triggered the would-be comeback with a pair of homers, including a two-run shot in the eighth to send the game to extra innings.

It continued a sensationa­l season for the 22-year-old first baseman, who moved into a tie for the most home runs in the majors.

It also equals the homer production from his rookie season in 2019 when Guerrero appeared in 123 games and has him on pace to become just the second Jays hitter to top 50 bombs in a season.

Given some of the horrific collapses over the previous three days, the gritty comeback provided an opportunit­y for the team to leave with a good taste in their mouth. Instead, more bitterness on a day in which they found themselves in a 5-0 hole before their first at-bat. And yet another contest in which the

Jays relievers couldn't shut the door, spoiling the Guerrero show and a noble bounceback effort from pitcher Ross Stripling.

When opener Trent Thornton, who walked in a run and allowed a grand slam struggled, Stripling came in and things began to turn.

The bats woke up as well, with all but a meaningles­s eighth run in the 11th coming via homer.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. banged out one in the second and then the Vlad show kicked in with a 461foot blast — the second longest of his career — in the fourth. Next man up, Teoscar Hernandez, hit one out and suddenly the score was 5-3.

That set the stage for the emotional leader of the team to tie it up in the eighth with a two-run round-tripper to centre. Guerrero danced around the bases as the Jays had fought all the way back.

It was the fifth multi-homer game of Guerrero's career and third of the season.

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