Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez power Blue Jays against Twins in series opener

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a three-run homer, Teoscar Hernandez homered for the second straight day, and the Toronto Blue Jays cruised to a 9-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Whit Merrifield, who revealed earlier today that he is 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 him up, they all have that damage potential,” Toronto interim manager John Schneider said of his line-up with the addition of Merrifield. “But if you can get the guys on the base and get the ball in play like we’ve been preaching all year – I know we’ve had six walks, five in the first five innings and none of that. – but when you put that combination of base and damage together, it’s pretty good.”

Toronto won for the 12th time in 15 games and got six efficient 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 straight start. He left his previous start with a bruised elbow after being hit. On Thursday, he was hit in the right triceps area in the fourth inning for Minnesota’s first hit, but stayed in the game.

“It’s okay,” Manoah said. “We’ll see tomorrow but it made me go a little higher this time on the triceps.”

Twins starter Sonny Gray also had a mid-inning hit before Cavan Biggio had a two-out single in the fifth. Gray finished after five innings, allowing just one hit, but batted out a season-high five batters.

Emilio Pagan (3-5) picked up Gray and allowed three runs — two earned — on four hits in one inning.

“We’ve added some good arms to our bullpen 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 of the commercial additions by Jorge Lopez and Michel Fulmer. “I think our bullpen will eventually become a strength of this team. We didn’t see it all come together today, but I actually think it will.”

Hernandez sent Pagan’s offer out the back of the second deck into 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-and-groundout. Jake Cave hit his first home run in his third game this season.

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