Vladimir Guerrero might be the best hitter in baseball, but George Springer is giving him some competition lately.
Springer led off a game with a home run for the second contest in a row and the third time since the Jays returned to Toronto last Friday. He added a two-run double and a couple of singles in Wednesday’s 8-6 win over Cleveland.
The Jays needed the offence because of a bullpen implosion that gave the visitors a chance after Toronto had taken an 8-0 lead. Cleveland had 15 hits, but Toronto has won 7-of-8 and moved a season-high seven games above .500.
While Guerrero continues to compete for the American League’s triple crown, Springer has been absolutely scorching since being moved to the top of the order in mid-July.
Heading into the game Springer was first in MLB in extra-base hits, second in runs, sixth in OPS, tied for third in home runs, tied for sixth in hits and was batting .369 since July 15.
He is now 24-for-64 (.381) with eight doubles, eight homers, 16 RBIs and eight walks in his 16 games batting leadoff this season.
“I’ve kind of hit first my whole career. I have a plan. I have an approach and I try to stick to it,” Springer said after the game. “We all are just trying to have a good at-bat. Just really try to pass the baton on to the next guy.”
That approach worked well from the start against Cleveland’s J.C. Mejia. Springer took him deep immediately and Corey
Dickerson, in his second game with the club, doubled home two more and later scored to make it 4-0 after an inning.
“A good lineup just got better because we got Dickerson right behind Teoscar (Hernandez),” said Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.
Springer singled in the second, reached third on a loud Guerrero double and then was knocked in by Bo Bichette.
Reese McGuire had a good at-bat, taking a couple of close pitches, before drilling a single into the right field corner to score a sixth Blue Jays run and chase Mejia from the game.
Springer greeted Cleveland’s first reliever with a double to the wall, scoring two more.
That had Springer a triple shy of the cycle in just the third inning. He couldn’t get an elusive triple though to join the short list of Blue Jays to accomplish the feat.
Marcus Semien, who has had a brilliant season at the plate and in the field, made a great diving play to end the top of the fourth inning, with Guerrero stretching out at first base to ensure the out.
Making his first career start at Rogers Centre, Steven Matz was good for the Jays, pitching six shutout innings. Matz gave up six hits, struck out eight and walked only one in one of his best outings with the team. He improved to 9-6 with a 4.30 ERA, quite a turnaround from last year’s 0-5, 9.68 ERA season with the New York Mets. Acquired for Sean Reid-Foley and a couple of prospects in January, Matz has proven to be a nice addition.
“The curveball was something that was working well,” Matz said of his evening.
But the bullpen troubles nearly erased it all.
Taylor Saucedo, just called up because Joakim Soria hurt his middle finger, had a tough eighth inning after Trevor Richards had a clean seventh. Saucedo gave up three straight singles, a three-run double and an RBI single before being replaced by Brad Cimber.
Cimber gave up a run on a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning. Jordan Romano sandwiched a pair of strikeouts with a couple of Cleveland home runs and suddenly Toronto’s lead was only two runs.
Things really got interesting when Romano gave up a single, but the hard-throwing Canadian struck out Austin Hedges to end it.
The Jays will look to stay hot and take the series on Thursday before Boston comes to town.
“Every game is important,” Springer said. “We’re playing for our life every single day. We have to bring the same aggression (each game).”
Springer was already the active Major League leader in leadoff home runs, but his recent surge has vaulted him up the all-time list.
He’s now two opening home runs away from tying Brady Anderson for seventh on that list with 44. Jimmy Rollins had 46, Curtis Granderson 47, Ian Kinsler 48. The man at the top is who you would expect, Ricky Henderson and it will be a long time until anyone comes close to his 81. Alfonso Soriano hit 54, Craig Biggio 53.
Of course, Springer was only moved to leadoff last month because of his injury issues, or else he’d likely have a bunch more this season. He hit 12 leadoff homers while with Houston in 2019, tied for the second-most ever in a season behind Soriano’s 13, and nine in 2017 and eight in 2016.
Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon is the closest active player to Springer with 36 of those homers.
Jays legend Devon White hit 34 leadoff shots, Paul Molitor, who hit deeper in the loaded lineup as a Jay, had 33.
The Jays released the team’s 2022 schedule and it will begin March 31 in Baltimore.
The home opener against Tampa Bay is on Monday, April 4 and the Rays visit for Canada Day as well. Boston comes to town for the first time on April 25, the New York Yankees on May 2.
The Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs also will visit Toronto in July and August.
The Cubs and Cardinals have not played at Toronto in some time. You might recall a 19-year-old Guerrero crushing a walk-off home run against St. Louis at Montreal in the final exhibition game of 2018.