Yariel Rodriguez sizzles again as Blue Jays hang on to square Seattle series

Outfielder Daulton Varsho makes sublime defensive play for second game in a row

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The story of Yariel Rodriguez is far from complete, his body of work so small that reaching any definitive conclusion would be foolish.

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However, for the second straight start, the Cuban-born pitcher looked in major-league form, the kind of outing that bodes well for a team that hasn’t played up to expectations and is likely to see changes aplenty as the July 30 trade deadline approaches.

Rodriguez threw six shutout innings on Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Park in Seattle as the Blue Jays hung on to edge the Mariners 5-4 and even up their three-game set at a win apiece.

In his previous start, on Canada Day at the Rogers Centre, Rodriguez gave up one run on two hits in 6.2 innings against the Houston Astros.


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In the follow-up on Saturday, he as even better. The right-hander threw more four-seam fastballs, got into some mild trouble in the fifth inning following a balk, but overall emerged as a potential piece the Jays will be relying on as the club begins the process of turning the page, which may begin in earnest in the next few weeks.

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Rodriguez struck out six Mariners. He retired the first 10 he faced before giving up back-to-back walks in the fourth. The only hit he surrendered was a Luke Raley single to left leading off the fifth as he earned his first major-league win and improved to 1-3.

Alejandro Kirk had a three-hit game for the visitors, and drove in a pair with an RBI double in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., also drove two while George Springer reached base four times as the Jays built up a 5-0 lead in the eighth inning before the bullpen again made things interesting.

Trevor Richards, after a three-up, three-down seventh, gave up a three-run homer to Mitch Haniger in the bottom of the eighth.


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Richards failed to retire a batter in the eighth and was lifted for Brendon Little, who brought the tying run to the plate after surrendering a Dylan Moore single. A wild pitch advanced Moore into scoring position.

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Little, however, got the next two outs before interim closer Chad Green fanned Jays nemesis Cal Raleigh to end the threat.

Green gave up a one-out solo homer to Raley in the ninth, but retired the next two Mariners to record his fourth save.

Two homers allowed by the pen is not exactly what the doctor had in order, but a win is a win and at least the Blue Jays were able to reward their diehard fans who made the trip across the border.

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Daulton Varsho was up to his old tricks, fresh off his memorable performance Friday night when he literally sprinted into the wall in left field to make a highlight-reel catch for the out on a play that had a catch probability of 5%. The stat geeks that dominate the sport estimated Varsho’s sprint speed on the play was 29.4 feet per second.

Then came Saturday’s defensive game from Varsho, who was back in left field. With the Mariners threatening in the home half of the fourth inning following back-to-back one-out walks, Varsho made a great read on a sinking line drive by Ty France and sprinted in to make a diving catch. He then had the presence of mind to scramble to his feet and throw to the bag at second base where he doubled off Josh Rojas to end the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Varsho singled up the middle and came around to score the game’s first run.
The guy is hit or miss at the plate — with more misses than hits — but when it comes to playing the outfield, Varsho is a must-see.

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Back on May 4, the Jays’ mounting frustration level was best summed up when Bo Bichette got tossed for the first time during his career following a called third strikeout against the host Washington Nationals.

In the intervening months, not much has gone right for Bichette or the Blue Jays, for that matter.

The star shortstop entered Saturday on a 1-for-14 hitting slide in his past four games.

In Bichette’s first at-bat, he was called for a time violation and ultimately struck out swinging, the 56th time he has fanned this season and the sixth game in a row he’s whiffed at least once.

Bichette has not hit a home run since May 27 and during that stretch has recorded just six extra-base hits.

He got his first hit of the series in the seventh on a single to left and ultimately produced the game-winning RBI when he reached base on a fielding error by M’s shortstop J.P. Crawford, allowing George Springer to score from third.

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Bichette finished the game 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .225.


Mariners star outfielder Julio Rodriguez was a late scratch … Lefty reliever Tim Mayza, whom the Jays DFA’d earlier in the week, has cleared waivers and is a free agent … Justin Turner was reinstated from the paternity list after his wife delivered the couple’s first child in Toronto. He was available Saturday after rejoining the club, but the Jays didn’t require his bat … Some were surprised to learn that Addison Barger had been optioned back to triple-A, while the Jays decided to keep outfielder Steward Berroa and infielder Leo Jimenez. In 20 games this season, Barger has twice as many strikeouts (18) as hits (9).

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