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Kirk's two homers power Blue Jays past Angels; L.A.'s Ward injured in scary scene

Toronto Blue Jays Alejandro Kirk Santiago Espinal - Getty Images

TORONTO — All season Blue Jays manager John Schneider has preached patience when it comes to Alejandro Kirk. That patience paid off on Saturday.

Kirk had two home runs, including a two-run shot, to power Toronto past the Angels 6-1 after a scary incident when Los Angeles left-fielder Taylor Ward was struck by a pitch. Kirk batted 3 for 4 on the day to improve his average to .260, closer to his all-star form of 2022 when he hit .285.

"When that patience comes from the manager, of course, it feels good. Some times I don't feel that way myself," said Kirk through translator Hector Lebron. "But it doesn't matter. I come here every day, I work very hard, so I can find a way to be ready to help the team."

Santiago Espinal's two-run homer also scored Kirk as Toronto (59-46) won its third straight. Whit Merrifield drove in another run with an RBI double.

Kirk's batting average dropped as low as .174 on April 9 but, for most of the season, has hovered around .250. He said that pitchers are approaching his at bats differently this year.

"I noticed that at the beginning of the year, but that's baseball," said Kirk. "We've got to go out and make adjustments, this is a game of adjustments. That's what I'm working on right now."

Ward was drilled in the face by an errant pitch in a bases-loaded situation for the Angels' (54-51) only run. Ward was carted off the field by paramedics and the team confirmed he was taken to a local hospital.

"A lot of tests to be run," said Los Angeles manager Phil Nevin, adding that he was going to visit him in hospital immediately after the game. "It got him pretty good, pretty flush."

Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah allowed a run on four hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings while striking out six. Toronto relievers Genesis Cabrera (2-1), Jay Jackson, Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson and Yimi Garcia were scoreless the rest of the way.

"Probably the worst feeling ever," said Manoah about hitting Ward with the pitch. "I'm going to pray for him and his family. That's the last thing you want to do, no matter the situation or the team, no matter anything."

Reid Detmers (2-8) allowed three hits, including Espinal's two-run homer, striking out five over 4 2/3 innings. Reynaldo Lopez, Aaron Loup, Jaime Barria came out of L.A.'s bullpen.

Manoah has struggled with his command all season, with his earned-run average climbing as high as 6.98 on April 16. But he was in control for the first four innings Saturday, fanning six and giving up no runs. That command fizzled in the fifth.

Luis Rengifo doubled with one out before Manoah intentionally walked slugger Shohei Ohtani. Mickey Moniak then drew a walk to load the bases.

That brought Ward to the plate. He drew two balls when the third pitch — a 91.7 m.p.h. sinker — struck him in the face, dropping him to the ground. Players from both teams took a knee out of respect for Ward as medics attended to him.

He was taken off the field on a paramedic's cart with a towel covering his face and Andrew Velazquez was inserted as a pinch runner. That hit by pitch pushed Rengifo across home plate for a 1-0 Los Angeles lead.

"I'll definitely be looking to see how he's doing and hopefully he's back on the field pretty quickly," said Manoah. "It's a terrible moment."

A visibly shaken Manoah was pulled from the game in favour of Cabrera, who fanned Mike Moustakas and induced a popout by Matt Thaiss. Despite loading the bases and walking in a run, Manoah's ERA still dropped to 5.87 from 6.10.

Espinal replied for Toronto in the bottom of the inning. He took a Detmers four-seamer to deep left-field, landing in the Blue Jays bullpen where Jackson was warming up. The Toronto reliever caught the ball on the bounce and tossed it to a fan before continuing his routine.

Espinal's second homer of the season also scored Kirk, who had reached base on a single, to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.

Kirk tacked on another run in the seventh inning, hitting his fifth home run of the season to the delight of the sold-out Rogers Centre crowd of 41,997. Three batters later, Merrifield hit a line drive for a double that scored Kevin Kiermaier from first for a 4-1 lead.

Kirk hit his second homer of the day — sixth of the season — in the next inning. That 407-foot bomb also scored Danny Jansen, who had left off the eighth with a single, for a 6-1 lead.

"We've liked what we've seen (from Kirk) probably the last two weeks or so," said Schneider. "Just the way he's controlled the zone and how hard he's hitting the ball."

ON DECK — José Berríos (8-7) will get the start for the Blue Jays as Toronto closes out its three-game series with L.A. with an early afternoon matinee. Tyler Anderson (5-2) is scheduled for the Angels.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2023.