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MLB: All-Star Game MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays meet Rangers

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With All-Star Game MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the way, the Toronto Blue Jays hope to start a surge that takes them to the postseason when they host the Texas Rangers in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Buffalo.

Guerrero, 22, had a mammoth solo home run and drove in another run with a groundout Tuesday to help the American League to a 5-2 victory over the National League.

The first baseman is batting a major league-best .332 this season, with an on-base plus slugging of 1.089. He has 28 home runs and 73 RBIs.

He has the potential to win batting’s Triple Crown and the American League MVP award this year.

“You know, I don’t think like that so much,” Guerrero said. “You don’t know, there could be ups and downs, but I don’t want to think about that. I just want to keep continuing to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens.”

He will be key to a potential playoff run for the Blue Jays, who at 45-42 are eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East and 4 1/2 games removed from a wild-card spot.

The Rangers, who are last in the AL West at 35-55, will start right-hander Jordan Lyles (5-5, 4.86 ERA) on Friday. He is 1-0 with a 6.08 ERA in three career games (two starts) against the Blue Jays but has not faced them since 2016. Over his past 11 games (10 starts), he has a 3.69 ERA.

Toronto will start left-hander Robbie Ray (7-4, 3.13). He held the Tampa Bay Rays to one hit and struck out 11 in seven innings in a 3-1 victory Sunday. Against Texas, he is 2-1 with a 5.27 ERA in five starts.

Scoring has not been a problem for Toronto. According to the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball published by Baseball Reference, Toronto should have a 50-37 record based on 444 runs scored and 372 allowed.

“A lot of our wins have been big blowouts, and you get to the close games and we’re not doing as well in them,” Blue Jays infielder Marcus Semien said. “That takes better pitching, better defense and timely hitting. That’s what it always comes down to in the close games. We know that we can blow a team out some nights because we have the bats to do it with, (but) it’s those other games that we’ve got to tighten up.”

Toronto is 6-10 in one-run games, 7-12 in two-run games and 2-5 in extra innings.

The Rangers have a hot hitter in outfielder Joey Gallo. He is batting .339 with 13 homers and 21 RBIs with an OPS of 1.542 in his past 18 games. For the season, he has 24 homers, 52 RBIs, a .923 OPS and a major league-leading 72 walks.

“I felt like I was on the verge of breaking out a little bit,” Gallo said. “I thought my ABs were always really good throughout the year. I was taking walks, taking good swings, I was still hitting the ball hard. I’m kind of a streaky guy. So I got on a roll. I hit a couple of homers. I just started swinging a little better. I got a little confidence.”

–Field Level Media

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