TORONTO — If the Blue Jays are faced with a bases-loaded situation late in the game, clearly left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is up for the challenge these days.
For the second consecutive game, Gurriel cleared the bases in the eighth inning. That hit led Toronto to a 10-8 win over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.
In the series opener on Friday, Gurriel hit a grand slam in the eighth inning that tied the game. The Jays eventually won 11-10 thanks to Marcus Semien's ninth-inning walk-off three-run homer.
Less than 24 hours later, Gurriel knocked in three more runs with a bases-loaded double to centre field to push the Blue Jays to a 10-3 lead. When the Athletics rallied in the ninth to score five times before the first out, Gurriel's eighth-inning at-bat proved to be the difference.
"You can't change anything with the bases loaded," Gurriel said. "You just have to make sure you take your time. You don't rush it."
The Blue Jays (72-62) remain five games behind the Boston Red Sox in the fight for the second wild-card spot in the American League. The Red Sox managed a 4-3 walk-off win at home against Cleveland on Saturday. The Athletics (74-62) fell to four games behind Boston.
Gurriel also slammed a solo homer to left in his first at-bat in the second inning for a 1-0 Toronto advantage. The Blue Jays knocked out four more homers after drilling three in the opener on Friday.
Following Gurriel was catcher Danny Jansen in the third, a two-run homer from Breyvic Valera in the fourth and a three-run blast from Teoscar Hernandez in the seventh gave Toronto a 7-3 lead.
Hernandez's homer was the 100th of his career.
Gurriel, meanwhile, has gone 25 for 68 (.368) in his last 21 games with four doubles, four homers and 20 RBI. Through his interpreter, Gurriel said a simplified approach to his plate appearances has paid dividends lately.
The wild late innings for the second game in a row almost concealed a magnificent outing from Toronto starter Jose Berrios.
"Everything starts on the mound," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "When the guy pitches good and gives you a chance to win, and that's what he did today."
Berrios (10-7) took a no-hitter and 4-0 lead into the fifth inning. But Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman led off with his 24th homer of the year to straightaway centre.
"I wanted to keep the momentum (from Friday's comeback) going," Berrios said. "I wanted to be aggressive, get ahead of the hitters and give us a chance to win."
The Toronto starter allowed two more runs in the sixth inning. Matt Olson led off with a double off the top of the wall in centre field. Berrios struck out the next two batters, but Mark Canha singled to left to score Olson and knock Berrios out of the ball game.
Oakland's Chad Pinder snuck a single under the glove of Blue Jays second baseman Semien to score Canha, who advanced to second on the throw home from Gurriel in his attempt to get Olson.
The only other Berrios blemish was hitting Tony Kemp in the first inning. But Kemp was erased on his steal attempt by Jansen.
The bad blood between the teams continued from the series opener.
Toronto starter Alek Manoah plunked Starling Marte in the head on Friday. Marte was kept out of the Athletics lineup on Saturday.
Not only was Kemp drilled, so was Hernandez in the fifth inning, and Bo Bichette was hit in the head in the eighth.
Berrios made his seventh start since arriving in Toronto in a trade with the Minnesota Twins on July 30. With his seven-strikeout, 103-pitch outing, he became the fourth Blue Jays starter to hit double-digits in wins, joining Hyun Jin Ryu (12), Robbie Ray (10) and Steven Matz (10).
Oakland got in on the homer run fun with a three-run shot from Canha in the ninth off Toronto reliever Joakim Soria, and a two-run blast from Sean Murphy two batters later off closer Jordan Romano.
After Soria gave up a walk and three hits to begin the final inning, Romano was summoned from the bullpen. After the Murphy blast, Romano settled down to record the final three outs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2021.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press