DENVER — Whit Merrifield hit a two-out, go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays went on to beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday to take two of three in the weekend series.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered and singled to drive in a pair of runs and Spencer Horwitz, a late fill-in for ailing Brandon Belt, added three hits, including his first career home run to help Toronto remain 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the third AL wild card.
“We’re starting to click,” Horwitz said. “The offense clicked today. The pitching has been clicking all year. So it’s exciting.”
Rookie Hunter Goodman doubled twice and drove in three runs for Colorado in a game that was interrupted by a 59-minute rain delay.
Santiago Espinal opened the ninth with a single off Justin Lawrence (4-7) and was replaced by pinch runner Mason McCoy. Horwitz drew a two out walk and Merrifield followed with a line single to right. Ernie Clement followed with another run-scoring single.
The outing by Lawrence reflected his recent struggles. He has allowed 12 earned runs in six innings pitched over his last seven games for an ERA of 18.00 in that span.
“I think with Justin it started with him being a little out of the strike zone. The first pitch strikes were lacking,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He’s had to work a little deeper in counts to get his outs. He’s got to flip that and get the ball in the strike zone earlier and stay on the attack.”
Chad Green (1-0) worked a scoreless inning for the win and Jordan Romano got three outs for his 32nd save.
Both teams came out swinging from the rain delay. Davis Schneider hit a go-ahead RBI double off Tommy Doyle, who relieved starter Chase Anderson, in Toronto’s three-run fifth. But the Rockies fought back in the bottom of the inning to re-tie the game on Goodman’s two-run double off Trevor Richards, who had relieved starter Kevin Gausman.
Goodman snapped a 2-2 tie with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth inning off Gausman, giving the Rockies a 3-2 leading going into the weather delay. Gausman went four innings and allowed three runs. He struck out five and walked three.
Blue Jays manager John Schneider said they did not consider bringing back Gausman, a Denver-area native who had about 40 friends and family on hand for the game.
“Once we knew it was going to be about 40 minutes, it’s tough for a pitcher to go back in and kind of ramp back up,” Schneider said. “We wanted to play it safe with him.”
Gausman said he had hoped to go deeper in the game but also understood the need to cut his outing short.
“I was hoping to kind of give (the bullpen) more of a day off and they did a great job of coming in and picking me up,” Gausman said.
Chase Anderson, reinstated from the 15-day injured list prior to the game after recovering from right shoulder inflammation that sidelined him nearly five weeks, went four innings and allowed two runs on four hits, including solo homers by Guerrero in the top of the third and Horwitz leading off the top of the fourth. It was the first career home run for Horwitz, recalled from Triple A Buffalo on Saturday for his second stint with the team this season.
“It was a surreal moment for sure,” Horwitz said. “Luckily my brother was here to share it with me and the ball is definitely going to him. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Horwitz’s home run ball dropped into the Rockies’ bullpen beyond the right center field wall, allowing a Rockies staffer to retrieve it and later give it to Horwitz. His older brother Ben had been visiting him in Buffalo and accompanied him to Denver when he was recalled Saturday.
“He’s my best friend,” Horwitz said. “I love him to death. He’s my BP thrower and he’s my everything. For him to be able to see my first homer is extremely special.”
Blue Jays: 1B Brandon Belt was a late scratch because of lower back tightness. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Horwitz.
Rockies: Anderson filled the roster spot of RHP Daniel Bard, who was placed on the 15-day injured list retroactive to Saturday with right arm forearm fatigue.
Blue Jays: Open a three-game series Monday at Oakland with RHP José Berrios (9-10, 3.70 ERA) slated to pitch the opener against the Athletics’ Ken Waldichuk (2-7, 5.92 ERA).
Rockies: Head to Arizona where they play the first of three on Monday. RHP Peter Lambert (3-5, 4.95 ERA) is scheduled to start the first game for Colorado. He’ll be opposed by RHP Merrill Kelly (10-6, 3.31 ERA).
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb