Ichiro Suzuki Takes a Final Bow, Still Perfecting a New Craft

SEATTLE — Mike Redmond, the Colorado Rockies’ bench coach, laughed at the improbability of a member of the 3,000-hit club devoting himself to the unheralded role of throwing batting-practice pitches.

“I am sure he won’t settle for anything less than becoming the absolute best B.P. pitcher,” Redmond said, smiling in amazement at the newest pursuit of Ichiro Suzuki, whom he once managed with the Miami Marlins.

Suzuki’s career will be celebrated Saturday night in Seattle, the first formal acknowledgment of his retirement in the United States since he laid his bat to rest once and for all in March after the Mariners’ season-opening series at the Tokyo Dome.

The Mariners, Suzuki’s club from 2001 to 2012 and 2018-19, quickly bestowed on their longtime star the title of special assistant to the chairman. As with other future Hall of Famers who receive nebulous advisory roles from their longtime employers, eager to keep the icons around for marketing and overall cachet, Suzuki had leeway to decide how exactly he would specially assist the team and how often he would do it.

Suzuki, 45, has kept a home in the Seattle area and has taken on an instructor role at home games. It’s not uncommon to see him stretching, playing catch and, of course, giving advice to any player interested in tapping into his wealth of knowledge. But he has especially applied his trademark perfectionism in a surprising area: throwing batting practice.

“Not too many people can say they got to take B.P. off Ichiro. That’s pretty cool,” Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger said. “But just like anything else he does, he approaches it with a lot of pride. I see him in the cage all the time practicing throwing batting practice. Few people practice that, but whatever he does, he wants to be really good at it.”

The notion of throwing batting practice developed out of Suzuki’s renowned training habits. He was signed by the Mariners during spring training in 2018 to add depth after an injury to another outfielder. Once the player returned in May, Suzuki was moved to the front office but continued to travel and work out with the team, harboring hope of making the club again in 2019.

League rules prohibited him from being in the dugout during games, so he found his comfort zone in the indoor batting cage — not hitting, but throwing. The perfectionist in him took over from there.

Imagining that he might be asked someday to be an emergency fill-in for a sore-armed batting practice pitcher, he did what he had done his entire career: prepared for the possibility. He started throwing every day to an available partner or, sometimes, just into the netting of the batting cage, up to 200 pitches a day.

A utility player saw Suzuki throwing and asked if he could hit off him. It became a regular session. Then one day in Houston last year, sure enough, Suzuki was asked if he could throw early batting practice. Three players participated, taking turns hitting more than 150 pitches total.

Suzuki continued to hone his approach, making adjustments like tinkering with the distance of the sloped board placed in front of the mound off which batting practice pitchers throw, just in case he was asked to do it again.

He was, and not for the novelty of hitting off a 3,000-hit batter, but because he had legitimately sharpened his ability to pitch batting practice, and players were noticing.

“First off, you have to be able to throw strikes consistently and have good tempo,” Haniger explained, adding: “Ichiro throws very straight, right over the top, very smooth, nice and easy. He doesn’t have a hitch in his arm or throw sidearm like some guys. His motion is so fluid, like his throws from the outfield, and it’s right in the strike zone every time.”

When the Mariners are on the road, Suzuki typically drives an hour south to the club’s Class AAA affiliate in Tacoma, where he throws on-field batting practice to the prospects. One popular story has it that he has maintained such arm strength that he was asked to take a little off his throws because they were coming in too hard.

At the major league level, the utility player Austin Nola found Suzuki’s live arm to be a unique advantage. While hitting in the batting cages, Nola observed that Suzuki often practiced by throwing a variety of pitches to a catcher in the cage. Wondering if he could turn that into a session of situational hitting for himself, he asked, and Suzuki was happy to oblige.

“He’s got a two-seamer, cutter, four-seam fastball up, a curveball, and a slider — and he can throw any of them for strikes,” Nola said. “Here’s a guy who was the best situational hitter of anybody I know, and he can throw all these pitches for strikes.”

Hearing such details of Suzuki’s newest quest for perfection, Redmond, his former manager, made an intriguing prediction. Convinced he possessed hidden power at the plate, many tried and failed to persuade Suzuki to enter the Home Run Derby during his playing career. But each derby participant gets to select any pitcher he wants to throw to him, and Redmond surmised that Suzuki’s newfound skill in retirement could persuade future participants to tap him.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the Home Run Derby after all,” Redmond said.




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Boston takes 4-game losing streak into matchup with Toronto

Boston Red Sox (76-69, third in the AL East) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (56-89, fourth in the AL East)

Toronto; Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Red Sox: Bobby Poyner (0-0, 10.50 ERA) Blue Jays: Trent Thornton (4-9, 5.23 ERA)

LINE: Red Sox -151; over/under is 10 runs

BOTTOM LINE: Boston enters the matchup as losers of their last four games.

The Blue Jays are 22-37 against teams from the AL East. Toronto ranks last in the MLB in hitting with a .235 batting average, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the team with an average of .273.

The Red Sox are 32-35 in division play. Boston has slugged .475, good for fourth in the American League. J.D. Martinez leads the team with a .573 slugging percentage, including 69 extra-base hits and 35 home runs. The Blue Jays won the last meeting 4-3. Justin Shafer recorded his second victory and Rowdy Tellez went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs for Toronto. Josh Taylor took his second loss for Boston.

TOP PERFORMERS: Randal Grichuk leads the Blue Jays with 54 extra base hits and is batting .230. Cavan Biggio is 5-for-25 with two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs over the last 10 games for Toronto.

Rafael Devers leads the Red Sox with 83 extra base hits and is slugging .565. Mookie Betts has 13 hits and is batting .325 over the last 10 games for Boston.

LAST 10 GAMES: Blue Jays: 2-8, .191 batting average, 4.82 ERA, outscored by 24 runs

Red Sox: 3-7, .217 batting average, 4.30 ERA, outscored by nine runs

Blue Jays Injuries: Matt Shoemaker: (knee), Elvis Luciano: (elbow), Ryan Borucki: (elbow), Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: (quad), Devon Travis: (knee), Luke Maile: (oblique).

Red Sox Injuries: Steven Wright: (toe), Chris Sale: (elbow), David Price: (wrist), Heath Hembree: (elbow), Dustin Pedroia: (knee), Steve Pearce: (back), Michael Chavis: (shoulder).

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The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

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Phillies Power Past Mets to Tighten Wild-Card Chase

Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley homered as the Philadelphia Phillies overcame an early deficit and outlasted the Mets, 10-7, on Sunday to further tighten the National League wild-card race.

The game took 4 hours 29 minutes — a minute short of matching the longest nine-inning game in N.L. history. When it was over, Philadelphia had closed within two games of Chicago for the second wild-card spot. The Mets stayed four back of the Cubs, who lost to Milwaukee, 8-5.

With both managers mixing and matching, the teams combined to use 39 players, including eight pitchers apiece. Hector Neris escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth.

The injured star Bryce Harper drew a bases-loaded walk as a pinch-hitter, capping a three-run seventh inning to put the Phillies ahead, 10-6. That came shortly after a sensational catch by right fielder Sean Rodriguez preserved a slim lead.

Wilson Ramos and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back homers in the first inning for a 3-0 New York lead. But Noah Syndergaard couldn’t hold the edge, and the bullpen got battered yet again as the Mets missed a chance to move up in the playoff chase.

Pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin blooped a run-scoring single that gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead in the sixth and Franco followed with a two-run homer. Franco later doubled and has seven homers and 18 R.B.I. in 15 games against the Mets this year.

The Mets clawed back for two runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 7-6 and had the tying run in scoring position, but Rodriguez charged hard into the tight foul space, banged hard into the wall and caught a fly by J.D. Davis to end the inning. Rodriguez’s teammates waited outside the dugout to greet him, and several players came off the bench to add their congratulations.

Kingery hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Harper walked to make it a four-run lead. Harper didn’t start for the second straight day after being hit in the right hand by a pitch Friday night.

Ranger Suarez (5-1) got two outs for the win and Neris closed for his 24th save in 30 chances. Paul Sewald (0-1) took the loss.

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Blue Jays take 6-game slide into matchup with Rays

Toronto Blue Jays (55-88, fourth in the AL East) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (85-59, second in the AL East)

St. Petersburg, Florida; Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Blue Jays: Jacob Waguespack (4-3, 3.97 ERA) Rays: Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.86 ERA)

LINE: Rays -212; over/under is 8 runs

BOTTOM LINE: Toronto enters the matchup as losers of their last six games.

The Rays are 37-29 against the rest of their division. Tampa Bay has slugged .430 this season. Oliver Drake leads the team with a mark of 1.000.

The Blue Jays have gone 21-36 against division opponents. The Toronto offence has compiled a .235 batting average as a team this season, last in the American League. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the team with a average of .276. The Rays won the last meeting 5-3. Nick Anderson secured his fifth victory and Daniel Robertson went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for Tampa Bay. Jordan Romano took his second loss for Toronto.

TOP PERFORMERS: Austin Meadows leads the Rays with 77 RBIs and is batting .287. Travis d’Arnaud is 8-for-30 with a double, three home runs and 11 RBIs over the last 10 games for Tampa Bay.

Randal Grichuk leads the Blue Jays with 62 RBIs and is batting .230. Cavan Biggio is 7-for-29 with three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs over the last 10 games for Toronto.

LAST 10 GAMES: Rays: 9-1, .277 batting average, 2.87 ERA, outscored opponents by 24 runs

Blue Jays: 2-8, .206 batting average, 4.45 ERA, outscored by 23 runs

Rays Injuries: Blake Snell: (elbow), Tyler Glasnow: (forearm), Yonny Chirinos: (finger), Jose Alvarado: (elbow), Eric Sogard: (foot), Brandon Lowe: (leg), Yandy Diaz: (foot), Travis d’Arnaud: (neck/shoulder).

Blue Jays Injuries: Matt Shoemaker: (knee), Elvis Luciano: (elbow), Ryan Borucki: (elbow), Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: (quad), Devon Travis: (knee), Luke Maile: (oblique).

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The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

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Jays reinstate Richard from injured list

ATLANTA – The Toronto Blue Jays reinstated left-hander Clayton Richard from the 10-day injured list on Monday.

Richard, who hasn’t pitched since July 13, has been limited to just 10 starts (45 1/3 innings) this season.

Richard missed the first eight weeks of the season with a stress reaction in his right knee, and the last seven weeks with a left lat strain.

The 35-year-old is 1-5 with a 5.96 earned-run average with Toronto.

The Blue Jays also announced Monday that left-hander Thomas Pannone was recalled from triple-A.

The announcements came before Toronto opened an interleague series in Atlanta Monday afternoon.

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Rick Zamperin: Tennis is the undisputed champion of instant replay

If you’ve been watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament on television this week, you probably noticed a few unique things.

Number one, tennis is an awesome sport, and much of the credit should go to the players, coaches and trainers who pour everything they have to be the best.

Whether you’re a fan of Roger Federer and Serena Williams or prefer the old-school stars of yesteryear, tennis aficionados know how amazing they are.

The different playing surfaces throughout the tennis season — grass, clay and hardcourt — also offer some spice to the proceedings.

But aside from that, there is one thing that tennis does better than any other professional sport on the planet: instant replay.

The so-called Hawk Eye technology — and the player challenges that go along with it — was first adopted at the U.S. Open in 2006 and it’s the most indisputable video instant replay system, period.

If a player challenges that a ball landed in-bounds or out-of-bounds, the replay is available within seconds and is accurate within 3.6 millimetres.

Instant replays in hockey, football, baseball, basketball and soccer may ultimately uphold or correct a ruling on the ice, field, diamond or court, but the length of time it takes to reach a verdict is more often than not mind-boggling.

The sad thing is none of their replay systems will ever be as efficient as the one tennis employs because there’s more grey area in those sports.

Offside replays in hockey and soccer can be disputed until the cows come home. The same can be said for bang-bang plays at first base or last-second jump shots, and football is plagued by so many variables when it comes to catches, surviving contact and staying in-bounds.

Advantage: tennis.

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Buchholz, Blue Jays to face Gonzales, Mariners

Toronto Blue Jays (53-79, fourth in the AL East) vs. Seattle Mariners (55-75, fifth in the AL West)

Seattle; Sunday, 4 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Blue Jays: Clay Buchholz (0-2, 6.57 ERA) Mariners: Marco Gonzales (13-10, 4.30 ERA)

LINE: Mariners -133; over/under is 9 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: Seattle and Toronto will face off on Sunday.

The Mariners are 28-37 on their home turf. Seattle has hit 207 home runs this season, sixth in the MLB. Daniel Vogelbach leads the team with 28, averaging one every 13.9 at-bats.

The Blue Jays have gone 28-40 away from home. Toronto ranks last in the majors in hitting with a .237 batting average, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the team with an average of .278. The Blue Jays won the last meeting 7-5. Brock Stewart secured his third victory and Bo Bichette went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBIs for Toronto. Reggie McClain took his first loss for Seattle.

TOP PERFORMERS: Domingo Santana leads the Mariners with 113 hits and is batting .256. Kyle Seager is 13-for-39 with five doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs over the last 10 games for Seattle.

Randal Grichuk leads the Blue Jays with 58 RBIs and is batting .238. Bichette has 12 hits and is batting .273 over the last 10 games for Toronto.

LAST 10 GAMES: Mariners: 6-4, .271 batting average, 4.03 ERA, outscored opponents by 17 runs

Blue Jays: 3-7, .215 batting average, 5.44 ERA, outscored by 21 runs

Mariners Injuries: Arodys Vizcaino: (shoulder), Connor Sadzeck: (elbow), Brandon Brennan: (shoulder), Chasen Bradford: (forearm/elbow), Dan Altavilla: (forearm), Austin Adams: (shoulder), Domingo Santana: (elbow), Mitch Haniger: (testicle), Braden Bishop: (neck), Ryon Healy: (back).

Blue Jays Injuries: Ryan Tepera: (elbow), Matt Shoemaker: (knee), Clayton Richard: (lat), Elvis Luciano: (elbow), Nick Kingham: (oblique), Clay Buchholz: (shoulder), Ryan Borucki: (elbow), Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: (quad), Devon Travis: (knee), Luke Maile: (oblique).

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The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

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A’s Complete Sweep of Yankees

OAKLAND, Calif. — Tanner Roark has been in Oakland long enough already to understand this winning vibe.

Roark is doing his part to keep the Athletics on a roll as the September stretch run approaches, striking out seven without walking a batter over six-plus innings in a 5-3 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night for a three-game series sweep.

“It shows what these guys in here in the clubhouse and all the coaches are all about,” Roark said. “We’re fighters and we’re not going to give in, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to do the small things great, get runs across the board and try to do our best to put up zeros.”

Mark Canha hit a two-run single as the A’s immediately jumped on Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka (9-7) on the way to a seventh victory in eight overall.

In less than a week, the A’s have taken down a pair of A.L. contenders impressively.

Oakland is on another of its familiar second-half surges, moving a season-best 21 games over .500 at 74-53 having won three of four against first-place Houston and then three straight over the A.L. East-leading Yankees.

“We can beat anybody. It’s just about bringing this game to the field every day and playing with confidence and doing all the little things well that we’re doing,” Canha said. “The fact that you keep looking at the scoreboard and the Rays keep winning, it just tells you we know we need to play well for five more weeks. There’s no letting up, obviously. This is going to be a dogfight.”

New York’s Gleyber Torres homered twice for his 30th and 31st of the year, a solo shot in the seventh and another in the ninth.

Oakland has won three of Roark’s four starts since he was acquired from Cincinnati. Roark (2-1) won his second straight decision and allowed two runs on seven hits in six and a third innings.

Torres also doubled and singled for the Yankees, who have lost nine of their last 10 and 21 of 28 in Oakland.

“Over the course of a long season you’re going to take one in the mouth, and we just got punched in the mouth right here in Oakland,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Tanaka, making his team-leading 26th start and pitching on an extra day of rest, dug himself an early hole allowing Marcus Semien’s leadoff double in the first, then giving up a pair of walks before an RBI groundout by Matt Olson and Canha’s base hit.

Matt Chapman added an RBI single and Stephen Piscotty drove in a run on a groundout.

Tanaka allowed five runs over six innings, striking out five and walking two.

Joakim Soria surrendered Torres’s two-out drive but finished for his first save in five chances as Liam Hendriks got a break from the ninth inning after a five-out save Wednesday.

Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, out since June 26 with a sprained right knee, did agility work in right field after doing some light running Wednesday. The hope is he will take batting practice on the field sometime this road trip. Pitcher Luis Severino pitched two simulated innings at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla., as he continues to work back from right rotator cuff inflammation with the goal of pitching in a big league game in September.

Pitcher David Hale (lower back strain) received a cortisone shot for a left knee problem, interrupting his rehab progress. Outfielder Brett Gardner was back in the lineup starting at center after he had an ingrown toenail removed Sunday that had bothered him all last week. He missed two games.

On Friday, James Paxton (9-6, 4.53 ERA) will start Friday at Dodger Stadium looking to win his fifth straight start, when Los Angeles counters with the 12-game winner Hyun-jin Ryu.

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Toronto faces Seattle, looks to build on Waguespack’s solid performance

Toronto Blue Jays (52-78, fourth in the AL East) vs. Seattle Mariners (54-74, fifth in the AL West)

Seattle; Friday, 10 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Blue Jays: Trent Thornton (4-8, 5.30 ERA) Mariners: Justus Sheffield (0-0, 6.00 ERA)

BOTTOM LINE: Toronto heads into the matchup fresh off a strong showing by Jacob Waguespack. Waguespack threw seven innings, giving up zero runs on one hit with five strikeouts against Los Angeles.

The Mariners are 27-36 in home games. Seattle has hit 204 home runs this season, sixth in the American League. Daniel Vogelbach leads the club with 28, averaging one every 13.6 at-bats.

The Blue Jays are 27-39 on the road. Toronto has slugged .428 this season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the team with a mark of .477.

TOP PERFORMERS: Vogelbach leads the Mariners with 44 extra base hits and is slugging .486. Tom Murphy is 9-for-19 with a double, six home runs and 10 RBIs over the last 10 games for Seattle.

Randal Grichuk leads the Blue Jays with 111 hits and is batting .238. Bo Bichette is 12-for-44 with three doubles, three home runs and four RBIs over the last 10 games for Toronto.

LAST 10 GAMES: Mariners: 6-4, .253 batting average, 3.72 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

Blue Jays: 3-7, .235 batting average, 4.77 ERA, outscored by six runs

Mariners Injuries: Arodys Vizcaino: (shoulder), Connor Sadzeck: (elbow), Felix Hernandez: (shoulder), Brandon Brennan: (right shoulder), Chasen Bradford: (forearm), Dan Altavilla: (forearm), Austin Adams: (shoulder), Domingo Santana: (elbow), Mitch Haniger: (testicle), Braden Bishop: (neck), Ryon Healy: (back).

Blue Jays Injuries: Ryan Tepera: (elbow), Matt Shoemaker: (knee), Clayton Richard: (lat), Elvis Luciano: (elbow), Nick Kingham: (oblique), Clay Buchholz: (shoulder), Ryan Borucki: (elbow), Lourdes Gurriel Jr.: (quad), Devon Travis: (knee), Luke Maile: (oblique).

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The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

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Blue Jays overpower Rangers in 3-0 win

TORONTO – Randal Grichuk was searching for solutions to his inconsistency at the plate when something finally sparked for him a few weeks ago.

While he couldn’t exactly put his finger on what that was, the Blue Jays outfielder is glad to be contributing to big team wins.

Grichuk, on his 28th birthday, homered for the second time in as many games to help Toronto topple the Texas Rangers 3-0 on Tuesday night.

“Honestly just going into the cages and feeling things out,” Grichuk said of his offensive turnaround over the last two weeks. “I’ve been so inconsistent with pre-pitch, getting to the hitting spot … just been trying to search for it and a few weeks ago now I found it.

“It could be gone tomorrow, but luckily I’ve been riding it out a few weeks ago consistently and I hope it stays for the rest of the season.”

Grichuk hit his team-leading 22nd homer of the season — a deep drive to straightaway centre field — to put Toronto up 1-0 in the second inning, and Billy McKinney and Teoscar Hernandez hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to pad Toronto’s (51-72) lead.

It was the 11th time this season that Toronto had homered in consecutive at-bats — and second time in as many nights — tying a franchise record from 1999.

Grichuk is batting .323 (20 for 62) with six homers, four doubles, one triple and 13 runs batted in over his last 15 games.

“I kinda changed the way I hold the bat, pre-pitch movements, some of my timing mechanisms and I felt like I’ve been able to be consistent with those the last 2 1/2 weeks,” Grichuk said. “This game’s kinda frustrating in the aspect of one day you have it and one day you don’t. And for no reason at all you lost it.

“So I think I’ve been kinda battling to stay consistent at the plate with my stance, with my swing, with my pre-pitch movements and lately I’ve been able to be comfortable and consistent with those.”

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was more succinct in his assessment of Grichuk’s recent success.

“He’s locked in right now,” Montoyo said. “He feels good at the plate, he’s not chasing and he’s one of those guys who when he gets hot he gets hot.

“And he’s hot right now, he’s having great at bats.”

Danny Santana had a pair of doubles for the Rangers (59-60), supplying the visitors’ only two hits through the game’s first five innings.

“We’ve got to gather as a unit and figure out a way to solve this. This is a good hitters’ park,” said Texas manager Chris Woodward. “These guys aren’t the Houston Astros. We need to do a better job of taking advantage of situations. “

Rangers starter Lance Lynn (14-8) gave up one run and four hits with three walks and a strikeout in five innings. It was the first time since April 23 that Lynn had pitched fewer than six innings in a start.

Wilmer Font served as the opener for Toronto, allowing one hit and two walks over his two innings of work.

Left-hander Thomas Pannone (3-5) followed Font with four scoreless innings — allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out three — and Tim Mayza, Derek Law and Ken Giles kept the shutout going to give Toronto its fifth win in seven games.

Giles, making his first appearance since Aug. 7, earned his 16th save of the season.

“We mapped it out how it came out,” Montoyo said of his use of his pitching staff throughout the game. “The key was Font getting out of the first inning because we were facing a good pitcher on their side, he’s pretty nasty, he’s got good stuff. … So Font getting out of that inning kept us in the game.

“And then of course Pannone was really good, and Mayza, Law and Giles. It was good to see him out there and getting the save.”

Rougned Odor continued to be booed loudly in each of his plate appearances. Toronto fans have loudly voiced their displeasure for the Texas second baseman since he punched former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista in the jaw during a 2016 game.

NOTES: Attendance was 22,958. … The Blue Jays cap the three-game series with a matinee Wednesday. Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley will start for Toronto while the Rangers counter with lefty Kolby Allard.

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