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Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits league-leading HR, passes dad

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 45th home run of the season in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday in Toronto. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 45th home run of the season in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday in Toronto. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crushed a fastball for a 114-mph missile over the left field fence to take the MLB lead in home runs in a Toronto Blue Jays win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Guerrero went deep in the bottom of the sixth inning of the 8-1 triumph Monday at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Blue Jays first baseman went 1 for 5 with an RBI, a run scored and a strikeout in the win.

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"I keep using the same line: I can't believe what I just saw," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters. "That was fun to watch."

Guerrero is hitting .318 with 45 homers and 103 RBIs this season. The American League MVP candidate also leads baseball with 171 hits.

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His 45th homer of 2021 is one more than his dad's career-high for a season. Vladimir Guerrero Sr. hit .345 with 44 home runs and 123 RBIs in 2000 for the Montreal Expos.

Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth in Monday's win.

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Center fielder Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double for a 2-0 lead. Third baseman Breyvic Valera hit a two-run single in the next at-bat for the final runs of the inning.

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The Blue Jays added some insurance with three more runs in the fifth. Guerrero grounded out in the first at-bat of the frame. Shortstop Bo Bichette followed with a 366-foot solo homer off Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough in the next at-bat.

Gurriel and Valera connected for RBI singles in the same inning.

Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien grounded out to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Guerrero then stepped into the box to face Rays reliever Adam Conley.

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Guerrero fouled off a fastball on the first pitch of the exchange. Conley missed the strike zone with his next three pitches. Guerrero sent the left-hander's fifth offering, a 3-1 fastball, just over the wall in left for a 356-foot homer.

The ball carried just 34 feet over the grass as it left the field, according to Statcast.

"I think the third baseman jumped," Montoyo said. "I think I saw that, and I thought it was gonna hit the wall. There's no way that ball's going out. And then when it went out, I went, 'Oh my God.'"

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Rays left fielder Austin Meadows smacked a 395-foot solo shot off Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards in the third at-bat of the ninth for the final run of the game.

Richards forced a Nelson Cruz ground out in the next exchange for the final out.

Blue Jays starter Sean Manoah allowed one hit in eight shutout innings to improve to 6-2 this season. He issued 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Blue Jays right fielder Teoscar Hernandez went 5 for 5 with two runs scored. Gurriel, Grichuk and Valera recorded three hits apiece for the Blue Jays.

Meadows and second baseman Joey Wendle recorded the Rays' only two hits.

The Blue Jays (81-63) host the Rays (89-55) in the second game of the series at 7:07 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Toronto.

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