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Varsho has grand slam as Blue Jays hold off Rockies 5-3 in Rodriguez's MLB debut

Toronto Blue Jays' Daulton Varsho hits a grand slam home run off Colorado Rockies pitcher Dakota Hudson during first inning interleague MLB baseball action in Toronto, Saturday, April 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young Toronto Blue Jays' Daulton Varsho hits a grand slam home run off Colorado Rockies pitcher Dakota Hudson during first inning interleague MLB baseball action in Toronto, Saturday, April 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
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TORONTO -

Daulton Varsho had a grand slam in the first inning as the Toronto Blue Jays held on for a 5-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.

Davis Schneider had a bases-loaded walk as Toronto (7-8) built a 5-0 lead in the first. Second baseman Cavan Biggio extended his hit streak to a career-best eight games with a basehit in the eighth.

Blue Jays starting pitcher Yariel Rodriguez struck out six and allowed a run on four hits over 3 2/3 innings in his Major League Baseball debut.

Bowden Francis, Tim Mayza, Chad Green and Yimi Garcia came out of the Blue Jays' bullpen to preserve the win, with Francis giving up two runs over 2 1/3 innings.

Brendan Rodgers's two-run single in the sixth inning kept Colorado (4-11) in the game, after Brenton Doyle's solo shot in the third.

Dakota Hudson (0-3) gave up five runs on five hits, striking out five over six innings. Victor Vodnik and Jake Bird each threw a scoreless inning of relief.

Rodriguez agreed to a US$32-million, five-year contract with the Blue Jays in the off-season and was called up to MLB for the first time earlier Saturday. He has pitched as a starter and a reliever in top leagues in Cuba and Japan.

He did not allow a run in 6 1/3 innings as a starting pitcher for triple-A Buffalo this season, striking out 10 over his two starts.

Rodriguez seemed to struggle facing his first big league batter, throwing three balls against Rockies leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon, but he settled down for a strike and then induced a flyout. He then found his confidence and struck out the next two batters he faced.

Toronto's offence backed Rodriguez up in the bottom of the first, with Schneider drawing a bases-loaded walk to push George Springer across home.

Varsho hit his second home run in as many games in the next at bat, clearing the bases for a 5-0 Blue Jays lead. He hit Hudson's 91.3 m.p.h. four-seam fastball 390 feet to right-centre field. The second grand slam of Varsho's career scored Bo Bichette, Daniel Vogelbach, and Schneider.

Doyle replied in the top of the third, crushing an 86 m.p.h. Rodriguez slider 420 feet to the second deck in left field.

Rodriguez was pulled from the game after two outs in the fourth inning. Blue Jays manager John Schneider said before the game that Rodriguez would be limited to 70 pitches and the Toronto skipper was true to his word, bringing Francis out of the bullpen as soon as Rodriguez struck out Rodgers for his sixth K of the game.

The 31,472 fans at Rogers Centre gave Rodriguez a standing ovation as he headed to the dugout, with the young pitcher taking his hat off and bowing his head in thanks.

Rodgers chipped away at the Blue Jays' lead in the sixth, hitting a bouncing single down the first-base line. That brought home Elias Diaz and Nolan Jones to make it 5-3.

BISONS GAME - Four of Toronto's regulars from last season played for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Saturday in the first half of a doubleheader against the Rochester Red Wings. Alek Manoah gave up four runs on eight hits in a start that lasted only 3 1/3 innings, with reliever Erik Swanson giving up two more runs in just 2/3 of an inning. Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., the Blue Jays closer last season, fared better with a strikeout and two walks over 2/3 of an inning. Catcher Danny Jansen went 0 for 4 at the plate. All four started the season on Toronto's injured list.

ON DECK - Jose Berrios (2-0) will take the mound Sunday afternoon in the finale of the three-game series.

Kyle Freeland (0-2) will get the start for Colorado.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2024.

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