After finishing six weeks of spring training, the Blue Jays’ 2023 season kicked off in dramatic fashion Thursday, with Toronto coming away with a thrilling 10-9 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
But it wouldn’t have been possible without George Springer’s historic showing.
Springer, beginning his third season with Toronto, led the way offensively, going 5-for-6 at the plate with four runs scored on the afternoon — becoming the first ever Blue Jays player to record five hits on Opening Day.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 30, 2023
The 33-year-old also became the first player in American League history to register five hits and four runs scored on Opening Day. He joins Hall of Fame icon Billy Herman — who had five hits and four runs scored in 1936 — as the only MLB players to accomplish that feat.
Springer was on the right side of some favourable batted-ball distribution, as four of his five singles produced an exit velocity lower than 83 mph. But as the Blue Jays right fielder noted post-game, luck is a major part of the game on occasion.
John Schneider joked that the #BlueJays bench was "giving Springer some love for his lawn darts."
Springer: "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, so I'll take it."
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) March 31, 2023
Toronto’s offence received support beyond just Springer, though, with the top three of the batting order, including Springer and young superstars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., going a combined 11-for-16 and driving in five runs.
Daulton Varsho made a solid first impression during his Blue Jays debut, cashing in the team’s first run of the game. The torch was then passed to Alejandro Kirk, who scored two more runs with a single, putting Toronto ahead 3-0 in the top half of the first inning.
Altogether, the club’s new-look offence played off each other all game, connecting for 10 runs on 14 hits — and they needed every bit of it to come away victorious.
With ace Alek Manoah struggling to find the strike zone consistently, the 2022 AL Cy Young finalist surrendered five runs on a career-high nine hits (two home runs) and two walks over 3.1 innings, tied for the second-shortest outing of his career. It snapped a streak of 39 consecutive starts of pitching five innings or more.
Aside from scoreless appearances by Canadian Zach Pop, Erik Swanson and Adam Cimber, Toronto’s bullpen couldn’t hold down St. Louis’ talented lineup, leading to a wild back-and-forth heavyweight bout throughout the later frames.
The Blue Jays and Cardinals traded punches in the seventh and eighth innings, matching each other’s offensive output, until an RBI single from Springer and a sac-fly from Guerrero Jr gave Toronto a one-run lead in the ninth.
As Toronto carried a 10-9 advantage into the bottom of the ninth, in came closer Jordan Romano, who finished things off on just 12 pitches, inducing his first pair of strikeouts of 2023 to complete the win — a contest that nearly slipped away from the Jays more than a few times.