Blue Jays set franchise record with 19 hits in Opening Day win over Cardinals
Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
By Evan Stack2 months ago
Something about the “New Level” Blue Jays and stressful Opening Day games, eh? While last year’s opener was a comeback that will be remembered for a long time, this year’s opener matched it in excitement level, if not exceeded it, despite this game being away from home.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three clutch RBIs between the final two innings, as the Blue Jays opened their 2023 campaign with a stressful 10-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on a beautiful, sunny day for baseball in Gateway City.
One of the most interesting notes about this game is that the Blue Jays broke essentially the longest-standing team record on Thursday by picking up a whopping 19 hits against the Cardinals. The team’s previous high of 16 came all the way back in 1977 when they played their first-ever Major League game.
(Note: Carson’s Tweet came before the game was finished)
The Blue Jays tagged Miles Mikolas for three runs in the first inning, thanks to an RBI double from Daulton Varsho and a two-run single from Alejandro Kirk. After the Cardinals got a run back in their half of the first inning, Bo Bichette doubled in George Springer to give the Blue Jays a 4-1 lead, their largest lead of the day.
A sacrifice fly from Varsho gave the Jays a 5-3 lead in the 4th inning, but Brendan Donovan smoked a two-run home run to tie the game in the bottom half of the frame. That home run started the dramatics of a back-and-forth affair the rest of the way, as it became seemingly impossible to decide if each team wanted to win the game badly or lose it.
After a scoreless 5th inning, the Cardinals took the lead in the bottom of the 6th, thanks to a debatable, head-scratching bullpen move by the Jays. With two outs in the frame, Tim Mayza was brought in to face Donovan and Lars Nootbaar, two left-handed batters. With Mayza being a lefty, it seemed mathematical. However, both Donovan and Nootbaar singled, and due to the three-batter rule, Mayza had to face one more hitter before he could exit. That hitter was Paul Goldschmidt. Not ideal!
Goldschmidt singled to right field, driving in a run, and the Cardinals were in front for the first time all afternoon. The confusing part of this move is that John Schneider pulled Swanson, who is statistically better against lefties than righties. Furthermore, Swanson had been cruising, striking out two of his three batters faced.
The Jays got that run right back, as Matt Chapman’s RBI single tied the game in the top of the 7th. Chapman’s hit drove in Nathan Lukes, who made his major league debut as a pinch runner after Brandon Belt laced a double to right field with one out. You guessed it, though – the Cardinals scored in the bottom of the 7th to even things back up.
Although the Cardinals scored a run, Guerrero should be credited for a stellar defensive play during the inning. Anthony Bass and Adam Cimber loaded the bases with no one out, and rookie Jordan Walker immediately drove in a run with an RBI fielder’s choice. This put runners at the corners with one out, and the Cardinals threatened to add to their lead. Tommy Edman sharply grounded a ball to Guerrero at first, with Vladdy almost looking to throw to second, thought twice about it, and smartly threw out Tyler O’Neill at home. This got the lead runner out of the way, and created some much-needed breathing room for Cimber. Toronto got out of the inning only trailing by a run.
The first of Guerrero’s late, clutch hits happened in the 8th, as he cashed in Springer and Bichette with a two-run single. Springer blooped a single in center field, almost throwing his bat at a slider from Jordan Hicks. Bichette reached on an infield hit to third, followed by a wild pitch by Hicks that allowed he and Springer to advance 90 feet. This opened the door for Vladdy to do his thing.
Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado were a pain in the side all day, and it proved itself once again against Yimi Garcia in the 8th. Arenado hit a ground rule double to give St. Louis the lead and, more importantly, set the stage for their All-Star closer in Ryan Helsley.
Helsley was tasked with facing the bottom of the order in Whit Merrifield and Kevin Kiermaier. They both reached base, with Kiermaier’s single allowing Merrifield to go first to third. Springer would hit another blooper into very shallow center, scoring Merrifield. Two batters later, it once again brought Guerrero to the plate with a chance to take the lead, and he came through. Vladdy skied a ball to deep center field, plenty deep enough to score Kiermaier on a sac fly.
Jordan Romano let everyone exhale as he closed down the 9th inning with no problem, striking out two batters and looking in mid-season form.
All nine of Toronto’s starters in the lineup reached base at least once, with Springer being the most productive. Springer went 5-for-6 with an RBI, becoming the first player in Blue Jays history with 5 hits on Opening Day. We love a healthy George Springer.
Bo Bichette went 4-for-6 with an RBI, and Guerrero was 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs. An unsung hero of the game was Chapman, who continued to be his stellar defensive self, and even went 3-for-5 at the plate. A steady offensive season complementing Chapman’s play in the field could and should help his chances of being extended this season and continuing to man the hot corner in a Blue Jays jersey.
For those who remember, Alek Manoah started the game for the Jays, and as previously mentioned, his day was fairly short. Manoah’s final stat line was 3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, and 3 Ks. For any Manoah haters out there who were quick to jump on him for his relatively poor outing, Jacob deGrom and Aaron Nola also allowed five earned runs today.
The bullpen was a mixed bag, and Manoah wasn’t as good as we know he can be. But it’s game one, and the Blue Jays did what they needed to do to get it done. The offence came through in so many ways, the defence was solid enough, and they got clutch hitting from their franchise name against a team that will be a contender for the National League pennant.
The Jays are already granted an off-day, as they don’t play again until Saturday. Kevin Gausman takes the bump against Jack Flaherty, so if you believe in BABIP gods, tomorrow is the time to get in their favour.
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