By IAN HARRISON Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — Teoscar Hernández hit two home runs, Whit Merrifield also connected and the Toronto Blue Jays edged closer to clinching home-field advantage in the wild-card round by beating the Boston Red Sox 6-3 Sunday.
“Guys are hungry not just to get to the playoffs but to make a run,” Merrifield said. “We have the guys to do it, we have the talent to do it. Just a matter of getting hot at the right time.”
The Blue Jays completed a three-game sweep with their 16th win in 19 games against Boston this season. That’s the most victories by any major league team against a division opponent this season.
“We’re playing a really good brand of baseball right now,” Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman said. “We’ve just got to kind of keep it going.”
Sixteen wins is also the most victories the Blue Jays have had against an opponent in a single season. Toronto went 15-4 against Baltimore in 2002 and again in 2010.
Gausman left after three innings because of a cut on his right middle finger. He allowed two runs and four hits, struck out four and walked none.
“In a different situation, even if this is two weeks prior, I’m staying in that game,” Gausman said. “Obviously, with the postseason coming up, I didn’t want it to get any worse.”
Gausman said the cut opened up alongside his finger nail in the first inning. He said it only affects him when he throws his split-fingered fastball, a pitch he doesn’t throw in between starts.
“My other pitches, there’s no problem,” Gausman said.
To prevent cuts and blisters, Gausman said he routinely treats the area with a laser between starts, and will continue to do so this week. He’s expected to start Game 2 of the wild-card series next Saturday.
Merrifield went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and scored twice.
“He’s been vital to what we’ve been doing down the stretch,” interim manager John Schneider said.
It was the sixth three-hit game of the season for Merrifield, who is 10 for 20 over his past six games.
“He’s been our best hitter the last week, outside of Bo (Bichette),” Gausman said.
Needing a triple to complete the cycle, Merrifield grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the eighth inning.
Bobby Dalbec hit a solo home run and had three RBIs for the Red Sox, who lost their final nine meetings with Toronto. Boston didn’t beat the Blue Jays again after a 6-5 win in Toronto on June 29.
After Gausman left, right-hander Zach Pop (4-0) pitched two perfect innings. Adam Cimber worked the sixth, and Anthony Bass gave up Dalbec’s homer in the seventh. The home run was Dalbec’s 12th.
Yimi Garcia pitched the eighth inning and Jordan Romano finished for his 36th save in 42 chances.
Hernández homered to begin the second, then hit a two-run drive off the left field foul screen in the fourth, his 14th career multi-homer game. The home runs were his 24th and 25th.
Merrifield hit a leadoff blast in the third, his 11th.
All three homers came off Boston right-hander Michael Wacha (11-2), who gave up three home runs for the second straight start.
“Just a good lineup and you’ve got to be really precise with where you’re putting that ball,” Wacha said.
Wacha allowed five runs and six hits in four innings, losing for the first time since May 31 against Cincinnati.
“Overall, a great season,” manager Alex Cora said. ”He’s an outstanding kid. Obviously he got hurt but he gave us everything we asked him to.”
The Red Sox are 23-50 against AL East opponents with three games against Tampa Bay remaining. It’s the first time Boston has lost 50 games to division opponents.
After Dalbec’s homer cut it to 5-3, George Springer restored Toronto’s three-run lead with an RBI fielder’s choice against right-hander Kaleb Ort in the bottom of the seventh.
According to the Blue Jays, Sunday’s game was the first in franchise history in which the win (Pop) and the save (Romano) went to Canadian-born pitchers.
FIVE FOR 75
The Blue Jays have five batters with 75 or more RBIs (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Matt Chapman, Springer and Hernández). That matches the Los Angeles Dodgers for most in the majors.
Pop made a behind-the-back stab on Abraham Almonte’s comebacker in the fourth, then knocked down Enrique Hernández’s 106.4 mph liner and got the out at first to end the fifth.
“I don’t want to call it dumb luck but we’ll call it pitcher luck,” Merrifield joked about Pop’s big plays.
Red Sox: 1B Eric Hosmer (back) is expected to be activated off the injured list Monday, Cora said.
Toronto drew 43,877 for its final regular season home game. The Blue Jays drew 2,653,830 fans across 81 home games this season, an average of 32,763 per game. It’s their highest total since drawing 3,203,886 in 2017. The Blue Jays didn’t play in Toronto at all in 2020, and had just 36 games at Rogers Centre last year.
Red Sox: LHP Rich Hill (8-7, 4.41 ERA) starts Monday as Boston hosts Tampa Bay. RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 3.00 ERA) starts for the Rays.
Blue Jays: RHP José Berrios (11-7, 5.37 ERA) starts Monday as Toronto visits Baltimore RHP Dean Kremer (8-6, 3.17 ERA) goes for the Orioles.
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