TORONTO (AP) — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 100th home run at age 23, becoming the 10th youngest player in MLB history to reach the mark, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 on Wednesday night to ensure winning a rare five-game series against a wild-card rival.
Toronto (81-62) has won three of four from the Rays (79-63), who dropped one game behind Seattle (80-82) heading into Thursday’s series finale, Those teams are in the three AL wild-card positions for the expanded playoffs, with Baltimore (75-67) four games behind the Rays.
Guerrero homered off Drew Rasmussen in the first inning, his 28th home run this season. At 23 years, 182 days, he is the youngest Blue Jays player to reach 100 homers, a mark that had been held by Carlos Delgado at 26 years, 84 days.
Guerrero said he planned to give his Hall of Fame father the ball from his milestone home run.
“He’s going to feel very proud of me,” Guerrero said through a translator. “When your son does something like that, I’m sure any dad would feel proud.”
Guerrero reached the 100-homer mark two years younger than his father, but Vlad Sr. did it in 438 games to Jr.’s 486.
Ross Stripling (8-4) allowed one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings, struck out four and walked one to win for the third time in five starts. He won for the first time in nine career appearances against the Rays.
Stripling has pitched at least six innings in six straight starts since returning from a hip injury.
“Since I came off the IL, I’ve been able to really use my pitch mix to my advantage and keep guys off balance,” he said.
Adam Cimber replaced Stripling and gave up a one-out single to Manuel Margot. Christian Bethancourt followed with a potential double-play grounder but second baseman Santiago Espinal lost track of outs and threw to first. Isaac Paredes walked but Cimber got pinch-hitter Jonathan Aranda to ground into a forceout.
Yimi Garcia gave up back-to-back singles to begin the eighth, then struck out Randy Arozarena, Harold Ramirez, and Ji-Man Choi.
“Garcia kicked it into another gear and got really nasty, really quick,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Guerrero and Bo Bichette each drove in a run in the third as Toronto pushed its lead to 3-0, and Espinal singled home Danny Jansen’s double in the fourth.
Rasmussen (10-5) allowed four runs and six hits in four innings, snapping a six-start unbeaten streak that dated to Aug. 2 against the Blue Jays.
“They kind of timed everything up pretty well,” Cash said. “I don’t think they knocked the cover off the ball but they certainly did a good job of putting balls in play, putting pressure on us, and found holes.”
Rasmussen allowed more than three runs for the third time this season, and the first time since June 10 at Minnesota.
“They had a really good approach and they were really aggressive,” Rasmussen said. “My execution was bad with two strikes in particular.”
Jansen hit a two-out double off left-hander Josh Fleming in the sixth and scored on Raimel Tapia’s hit to make it 5-0.
Ramirez hit a leadoff homer in the seventh.
Tampa Bay put 2B Brandon Lowe (back) on the 10-day IL and recalled C Rene Pinto from Triple-A Durham. Lowe left the team Tuesday and returned to Florida for an MRI, which manager Kevin Cash said revealed inflammation similar to the injury that caused Lowe to miss 55 games earlier this season. The Rays hope Lowe will play again this season. Lowe was activated last week after missing eight games because of a sore right elbow and went 0 for 13 in four games.
BEASTS OF THE EAST
Toronto is 13-3 in its past 16 games against AL East opponents.
Espinal reached 50 RBI with his fourth-inning hit, giving Toronto an ML-high eight players with 50 or more RBI. The Dodgers and Mets each have seven.
Rays: RHP Ryan Thompson was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right elbow after feeling discomfort while throwing and will miss the rest of the season, the team said. … LHP Brendan McKay had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow Wednesday.
Rays LHP Shane McClanahan (11-5, 2.20 ERA) is expected to be activated off the injured list to start Thursday’ against Blue Jays RHP Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.31 ERA). McClanahan (left shoulder) last pitched Aug. 24 against the Los Angeles Angels. Gausman is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season.