TORONTO – Isaac Paredes and Wander Franco both hit solo home runs as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Randy Arozarena, René Pinto and Yandy Diaz each had an RBI single as Tampa Bay (41-36) snapped a four-game skid.

Shane McClanahan (9-3) was dialled in for the Rays, striking out 10 and giving up one run on three hits over seven innings of work. Javy Guerra and Phoenix Sanders closed things out for Tampa.

“(McClanahan) looks like a guy throwing it 91 but he’s really throwing it 96, 97 which is tough,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, for sure.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single in the first inning opened the scoring for Toronto (44-34), which won the first two of the rare five-game series. Matt Chapman added a late run when he grounded out in the ninth.

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Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman struck out three and gave up four hits in two scoreless innings before being hit by a comebacker. He was removed from the game with a right ankle contusion.

“Just like everybody else, I was hoping that it wasn’t anything worse than a contusion and that’s what had happened and that’s good news,” said Montoyo. “And then (I thought about) who was going to cover the game.”

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Casey Lawrence (0-1), who had been recalled from triple-A earlier Saturday for the doubleheader, pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief, allowing six runs. Max Castillo came on after him.

“When you’re thrown into that situation, for me it’s just kind of put my head down and try and get as deep into the game as I can, while giving us a chance to win,” said Lawrence, who threw 99 pitches in a start for Buffalo on Tuesday.

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Thomas Hatch (0-1) was scheduled to start for the Blue Jays in the day’s second game, with Drew Rasmussen (5-3) going for Tampa Bay.

Toronto jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, with Guerrero singling to right field. Bo Bichette sprinted home from second base, sliding headfirst into the plate for a 1-0 lead.

Gausman’s injury came in the second inning when Franco’s sharply hit ball bounced off the turf and into the pitcher’s right ankle. He attempted to field the ball, but instead ended up laying face down on the field in obvious pain as catcher Gabriel Moreno got the put out at first base to end the inning.

Gausman had to be helped off the field by trainers and was subsequently replaced by Lawrence. The Blue Jays said that X-rays on Gausman’s ankle were negative.

Paredes got to Lawrence in the third, hitting a home run into the Blue Jays’ bullpen in left field to tie the game 1-1.

Arozarena gave the Rays their first lead of the game when his single bounced off the turf and into Lawrence’s inner knee before caroming toward Bichette at shortstop. That gave Franco enough time to race home and make it 2-1.

Lawrence stayed in the game after throwing a few warmup pitches.

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Three batters later, Pinto’s singled to right, plating Ramirez and Arozarena for a 4-1 lead.

Franco piled on in the sixth, hitting the first pitch he saw from Lawrence that inning to deep left. Toronto outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could only look on, leaning to try and will the ball foul, but it stayed fair for a 5-1 advantage.

Diaz tacked a run on for the Rays in the eighth, driving home Taylor Walls with a single to centre.

Chapman hit into a double play in the ninth, giving Teoscar Hernandez enough time to scamper home for the game’s final run.

EXTRA HELP — Lawrence was recalled from triple-A as the 27th man for both games of the doubleheader. The spare player is permitted by Major League Baseball for doubleheaders.

PIRATES TRADE — The Blue Jays announced during the first game of the doubleheader they had completed a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda. Toronto sent cash considerations to Pittsburgh in return. Righty Julian Merryweather was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press