TORONTO — Welcome home.
Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill celebrated their homecoming Friday night as if they just put the biscuit in the basket after freezing their backyards for a mid-December skate.
Naylor homered and Quantrill threw seven scoreless innings as the Guardians thumped Toronto, 8-0, at Rogers Centre to retain their hold on first place in the AL Central. Wayne Gretzky, Dudley Do-Right or Sergeant Preston of the Yukon couldn’t have done it any better.
The Guardians, who have won six straight, are 4-0 on this six-game trip. They’re 8-3 in August with wins in 12 of their last 17 games.
As Zach Plesac said after Sunday’s sweep of Detroit, “We’re buzzing.”
Naylor and Quantrill were born in Canada, between 45 minutes and a hour’s drive Rogers Centre. Naylor grew up a Red Sox fan and didn’t go to many Blue Jays games. Quantrill’s father, Paul, pitched for the Jays for six seasons.
Friday night both their pass lists were booked solid. Family, friends, former teammates and coaches, even Naylor’s old civic’s teacher, came to Rogers Centre to see two of Canada’s favorite sons.
Naylor’s two-run homer to left field, his 15th of the season, was a big part of Cleveland’s five-run third inning.
Quantrill (9-5, 3.67) allowed one hit in seven innings. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who doubled with one out in the fourth, was the only Blue Jay to reach base against him.
“It was awesome,” said Quantrill. “There were a lot of people I owe my career to who were at the game tonight. It’s fun to pitch well in front of those guys.”
Quantrill said he had about 25-30 people at the game. “And lot of people were here I didn’t know were coming,” he said. “I got to see them when I was walking out to throw my bullpen.”
Naylor was a little late getting into the clubhouse after the game. He was signing autographs and thanking family and friends for coming.
“I made sure to say hi everyone and thank them for coming out,” said Naylor. “There were about 100 people or so. I just wanted to show my gratitude.”
Cleveland starters over the last six games have allowed three runs in 38 1/3 innings. Quantrill, who struck out seven Friday, started the streak with six scoreless innings against Houston on Aug. 6.
The Guardians are 7-0 in Quantrill’s last seven starts. He’s 5-0 with a 3.26 ERA in those seven starts.
“I thought we commanded the fastball really well tonight,” said Quantrill. “Quite honestly, getting an eight- run lead took the air out of the Jays’ tires. I thought we stayed on them, avoided deep counts and induced sweet contact at the end.”
Jose Berrios ( 8-5, 5.61), who made his big league debut against Cleveland as a member of the Twins on April 7, 2016, cruised through the first two innings before coming undone in the third. The Guardians sent 10 men to the plate, scoring five times with the help of five hits and two hit batsmen.
Berrois, with one out, started his downfall by hitting Austin Hedges. Rookie Will Benson, making his second start in center field, singled. Then came one of the highlights of the inning.
Steven Kwan rolled a 90-foot bunt down the third baseline that didn’t stop until it hit the bag to load the bases. If the Blue Jays have a kangaroo court, somebody on the grounds crew has to be fined for having a baseline as true as a Roberto Clemente throw from right field to the hot corner.
“That was beautiful,” said manager Terry Francona. “I don’t blame them for letting it roll because it looked like it was going to go foul. It just caught the corner of the bag.”
Amed Rosario started the scoring with a two-run single to center on a two-strike pitch by Berrios. Cleveland’s aggressive baserunning set up the rest of the inning as Kwan went to third and Rosario took second on the throw.
Jose Ramirez delivered Kwan with a sacrifice fly before Naylor unloaded to left field to make it 5-0. Naylor added an infield hit in the fourth and was robbed of extra bases in the eighth by right fielder Teoscar Hernandez.
Naylor and Quantrill have been teammates on and off since they were on Canada’s junior National Team in 2012. Naylor was happy that they both had big games on Friday.
“This is where we grew up playing baseball,” said Naylor. “We decided our paths here in Canada. We stuck with it and grinded. It’s tough being Canadian coming up through baseball, but we stuck with it.”
Berrios came out for the fourth and the Guardians treated him just as rudely has they had in the third. Benson reached on a fielder’s choice at second after Hedges opened the inning with a walk. Kwan walked, but Rosario lined out to left on a nice catch by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Ramirez, homerless in his first 39 at-bats in August, ended that streak as he golfed a three-run homer over the right field fence to make it 8-0.
It was Ramirez’s 22nd homer, but just his third since the All-Star break. The homer gave Ramirez four RBI in his first three plate appearance Friday. He has 92 for the season.
Berrios, who allowed eight runs on eight hits in four innings, is 0-2 with a 14.54 ERA (14 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings) in two starts against the G’s this year.
The Guardians finished with 14 hits, including three each by Ramirez and Nolan Jones. They are 4-1 against Toronto this season. The Blue Jays, leading the AL wild card race, have lost six of their last eight games.
Quantrill, Eli Morgan and Nick Sandlin combined on the three-hit shutout.
Next: RHP Triston McKenzie (8-8, 3.16) vs. RHP Mitch White (1-3, 3.86) Saturday at 3:07 p.m. Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM, WMMS and the Guardians Radio Network will carry the game.
Guardians merchandise for sale: Here’s where you can order new Cleveland Guardians gear, including T-shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more.
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