Vladimir Guerrero Jr. keyed a career-best four-hit outing with his major league-leading 17th home run and the Toronto Blue Jays celebrated the return to their temporary Buffalo home with a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays are unable to play in Toronto for a second straight season because of Canadian health restrictions due to COVID-19.
After opening the season 10-11 playing at their spring training site in Dunedin, Florida, the Blue Jays escaped the heat and humidity to return to Buffalo, where they went 17-9 last year and clinched their first playoff berth since 2016.
Robbie Ray (3-2) allowed one run on six hits through six innings, and the nomadic Blue Jays picked up where they left off a year ago in their adopted home.
Guerrero doubled in the first, hit a three-run homer in the third and added two singles. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had three hits, including a towering solo home run.
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The game ended with reliever Jordan Romano striking out pinch-hitter Jose Devers on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded. The Marlins lost their fourth straight.
Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisholm went 0 for 4, including striking out twice, and had an error in returning after missing four games with a sore right ankle.
Sandy Alcantara (2-5) allowed four runs on nine hits through six innings.
The teams close their two-game series on Wednesday night.
Guerrero’s homer came after singles by Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette for a 3-0 lead.
Starling Marte hit a double in the Miami fifth that drove in Luis Marte, who made his major league debut.
On his next time up following his home run, Guerrero was greeted with a chant of “MVP!” in the familiar confines of a stadium where he gained fans during a brief Triple-A stint before being promoted to Toronto.
This was the type of home-field advantage the Blue Jays felt they lacked in Dunedin, where a large mix of fans rooted for the visiting teams, including the nearby Tampa Bay Rays.
Erik Johnson, among the many fans wearing Guerrero shirts and jerseys, lucked out by landing last-minute tickets 13 rows behind home plate.
Before the pandemic, Johnson wanted to celebrate his son’s first birthday by taking him to a game in Toronto. A year later, he had son Wesley on his lap with a prime view of Guerrero’s blast.
“That was amazing. I mean, just straight out,” Johnson said of the hit. “This is incredible. When we heard the Blue Jays were in Buffalo, we knew we had to fin da way to get to the game.”
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Fans showed up adorned in Blue Jays, Yankees and also NFL Bills gear.
Fans were divided into two sections, with those vaccinated squeezed in side by side down the left-field line, and non-vaccinated fans clustered in small groups up the right-field line.
The game began with a few fans yelling, “Let’s go Buffalo,” a familiar refrain heard at Bills and NHL Sabres games.
The game featured a late-arriving crowd even with ticket sales limited to 6,600, about 35 per cent of the stadium’s capacity. A long line snaked outside the entry gates as the Canadian and American anthems were performed.