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George Springer Grand Slam Lifts Blue Jays over the Cardinals

The Blue Jays bats carry the team to victory on Buck Martinez’s triumphant return to the broadcast booth.

 Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) celebrates hitting a grand slam home run against the St. Louis Cardinals with Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) during the sixth inning at Rogers Centre.  John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals 3 @ Blue Jays 10

George Springer, once again, showed Blue Jays fans why their club signed him to a $150-million, six-year contract: he delivers in the clutch, and he is pure vibes when he does so.

But let’s start with José Berríos. He was not great tonight against the Cardinals, although he did pitch into the sixth inning and struck out seven. Unfortunately for him, St. Louis batters managed to tag him for three runs on seven hits between those strike outs. He didn’t look horrible, but there were simply too many times where he wasn’t able to control his pitches—chalk it up to the long layoff if you’d like. However, as they say, he pitched well enough to keep his team in the game.

The scoring started early, with two-batter Dylan Carlson giving the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a swing-and-a-drive to right-centre. However, the Blue Jays answered right away in the bottom half of the inning when Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s swung and drove a ball to left after a George Springer leadoff single to make the score 2-1 Toronto. Bo Bichette followed with a double then Matt Chapman drove him in with an RBI-single, and Berríos returned to the mound with a 3-1 lead.

The Cardinals went 1-2-3 in the second, partly thanks to some questionable strike calling by home plate umpire Laz Diaz and expert frame job by catcher Alejandro Kirk.

The third inning encapsulated Berríos’ performance tonight. He started it off by walking the light-hitting Lars Nootbaar with four straight balls after getting ahead 0-2. Then, strike out to Andrew Knizner. A Tommy Edman single advanced Nootbar to second then Carlson struck again, singling home the Cards’ second run. Berríos then got Burnaby’s Tyler O’Neill swining before the still-frisky 42-year-old Albert Pujols singled in Edman to tie the game. Berríos then struck out Brendan Donovan to end the inning, retiring the side on K’s (whilst giving up two runs).

An early turning point for the game happened in the top of the fifth: Berríos looked like he was in a bit of trouble in a one-on, one-out situation facing O’Neill. O’Neill lined a Berríos fastball over the second baseman Santiago Espinal who leapt, caught it, then fired it to first to get the inning-ending double play. The red birds would threaten once more in the sixth, putting runners in the corners, but the reliable lefty Tim Mayza shut the door by inducing a Nootbar groundout to end the frame.

Between the bottom of the second into the sixth, Cardinals pitchers Andre Pallante and fireballer Jordan Hicks strung together 12 straight outs. But with one out, Teoscar Hernández broke the streak with a clean single to right-centre. Lourdes Gurriel followed with another single, which Carlson bobbled in the outfield and allowed Hernández to third; however, Gurriel was thrown out on the basepaths like a nincompoop on a very ill-advised attempt to second. (Hernández appeared to have hurt his ankle, rolling over it sliding in to third base, but he stayed in the game for an inning before being replaced defensively by Bradley Zimmer.)

Chapman then turned on a 102 mph offering from Hicks right up the middle, nearly hitting the pitcher on the way to centre field, scoring the go-ahead run. Hicks seemed rattled by the comebacker and proceeded to walk Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio. You know something is wrong when the pitcher was unwilling or unable to throw 102-mph fastballs for strikes against a guy who struggles against velocity.

Junior Fernández was then brought in to face George Springer, fell behind 3-0, then, well you know what happened.

Alejandro Kirk would keep the good times rolling in the seventh with a solo swing and a belt, and Espinal made the score 10-3 later that inning with an RBI-single.

David Phelps, Maximo Castillo, and Jeremy Beasley threw scoreless innings to finish off the Jays’ victory over the Cards. Beasley did so on a 25-pitch ninth-inning effort that loaded the bases that ended with a flyball to the right field wall but it was scoreless nonetheless.

The game was also an emotionally charged one. The Toronto crowd and all the Blue Jays players gave a standing ovation to broadcaster Buck Martinez who just came back from cancer treatment. The crowd also acknowledged first base coach Mark Budzinski’s first home game after the death of his daughter—Albert Pujols did so too, giving “Bud” a big hug at first base.

Jays of the Day! Springer (+.256 WPA), Chapman (+.214). Mayza (+.076) gets a half-Jay of the Day for getting the Jays out of a tough situation.

Suckage Jays: Beasley didn’t have the number for it but I will give it to him. No, you know what, in light of Buck’s return I will rescind this dishonour.

The Blue Jays wrap up their brief Interleague series against the Cardinals tomorrow, with first pitch flying at 7:07 pm. Toronto will send out righty Kevin Gausman and St. Louis will counter with 40-year-old Adam Wainwright. It will be Albert Pujols’ final regular appearance at the Rogers Centre.