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HORNBY: Jays get mauled, Guerrero tossed

On Star Wars Night at the ball park, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed he had a dark side

With Toronto getting Darth Mauled by the Astros at Rogers Centre in Friday’s series’ opener against the 88-win American League West leaders, the young Jedi Jay let his temper get the better of him after a frustrating night at the plate and in the field. Guerrero Jr. was ejected in the seventh inning for the first time in this fine rookie season for arguing a called strike he thought was outside before going down swinging.

It enlivened what was a men against boys match or to stay on theme, storm troopers versus droids, with three late Han Solo homers by the Jays making it a more respectable 7-4 final. Guerrero said his terse exchange with plate umpire Mike Estabrook might have been lost in translation.

“Heat of the moment, but I didn’t say anything bad to him,” Guerrero claimed post-game through an interpreter. “I just turned around and said it was a ball. I guess he didn’t understand what I said very well, got upset and threw me out.”

Guerrero had been warned after the called strike, so he was half expecting to get tossed. He didn’t look for video verification of the non-called strike afterwards.

“I know my strike zone well, I don’t have to see it,” said Guerrero Jr., who is hitting more than .360 for the fourth-best average in the major since July 19.

Manager Charlie Montoyo didn’t mind the display of emotion, saying Guerrero and the whole bench were getting vocal with Estabrook.

“I got it why he was thrown out. (Estabrook) did it the right way, gave him a chance and Vladdy looked back and said something else.

“They’re young kids, they’re learning lessons. Arguing balls and strikes, that’s part of the game, that’s never going to stop. I’m going to get thrown out, other players are going to get thrown out.

“The better we get and the more we’re fighting for playoffs (not this year obviously with a record of 54-82), there will be more. And I’m looking forward to that, honestly.”

The Astros jumped on little mistakes before a four-run fifth inning that started with Guerrero Jr.’s 16th error and second in as many games. Cavan Biggio was also picked off first after an opening inning walk. After its slow start offensively, everyone in Houston’s order had a hit or driven in a run by the sixth.

Struggling against overwhelming forces as the playoff drive intensifies for contenders, Toronto is lurching toward Sunday’s expansion of rosters to audition yet a few more farm prospects in this painful season.

The Jays squeezed out just four hits before Reese McGuire, Derek Fisher and Biggio hit late home runs with the Astros already well in command.

The only Astro who didn’t enjoy the evening was starter Wade Miley. On paper it was an unfair match-up, lefty Miley gunning for eight straight wins and a record of 14-4, versus Toronto’s Trent Thornton at 4-8 and a 5.34 ERA.

But Thornton, who cruised in a 12-0 win against his old team in the Lone Star State in June, struck out three through two innings.

“The first four innings, I felt the tempo of my pitches, the rhythm, the timing felt really, really good,” Thornton said. “I was locating a lot more than lately, then I left a pitch for (George) Springer over the plate.”

After his fourth and final strikeout of the night, Thornton gave up four straight hits, the most damaging Springer’s three-run smash to left that almost hit the Tony Fernandez ‘Level of Excellence’ sign between the second and third decks.

Thornton was asked if the Guerrero JR/ bobble rattled him. For a change it wasn’t a ground ball he couldn’t find as a soft liner clanked off his glove. It undermined a nice play he’d made on an infield shift to throw out Josh Reddick earlier in the game.

“You have to be able to re-set, step off and focus,” Thornton said of him getting past what h can’t control. “If I execute that pitch to Springer, we’re out of the inning.”

Miley, meanwhile, was a bit of a mess. Having not allowed more than five walks in a game this year, he put that many batters aboard through two innings.

A pitch count of 95 before the fourth frame ended led to the hook after a two-out single by McGuire.

A familiar face came on late in the game, long-serving Jay Joe Biagini, back after the July trade. His tidy two innings were only marred by a Justin Smoak single. McGuire rocked incoming reliever

Hector Rondon’s first pitch just over the right field wall.

The Astros did not call on 22-year-old Quebec native infielder Abraham Toro, who on Thursday became the youngest Canadian ever to get three walks and a homer in a single game. Russell Martin, then a Dodger, did it in 2008 at age 25. Media from Montreal are in town for Toro’s Toronto appearance.

EASY RBI FOR MCGUIRE

As a catcher, Reese McGuire knows something about catcher’s interference when he’s standing at the plate.So when the Blue Jays’ No. 9 hitter had a chance with bases loaded in the second inning on Friday night, he wanted to cash one any way he could. No Jay was more cognizant of the thwack he heard when the end of his bat struck the out-stretched glove of Astros receiver Robinson Chirinos. That allowed Teoscar Hernandez to trot in with the game’s first run.“I haven’t had that happen probably since Little League,” said McGuire. “I also got a piece of the ball. Something didn’t seem right. When I went back and watched the video, my reaction was a lot faster than I thought it was.”McGuire also belted his third homer and punched a couple of singles as regular catcher Danny Jansen had a day off.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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