NEW YORK — When in doubt, follow the leader.
In a 9-2 win on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium that the Blue Jays can print off and laminate as their blueprint for winning in September and October, George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the top of the order were all that Toronto needed. The other seven bats in the lineup just helped pile on.
Springer’s 5-for-5 performance was one of his best in a Blue Jays uniform. He collected a double and four singles on a night where it looked like he could place the ball wherever he wanted. Beyond the obvious, which is that Springer is an elite all-around player when healthy, this Blue Jays team simply has a different look, feel and energy when he’s in the lineup.
“He’s really good, and we love having him,” interim manager John Schneider said, smiling at the obvious. “He’s been great since he came back. He’s a spark plug at the top, and he really gets this offense going.”
Sometimes, it’s Springer’s job to play the role of hero. Other times, it’s his job to get Guerrero to the plate, which he did with a two-out RBI single in the second inning. Two pitches later, Guerrero launched his 26th home run of the season, a three-run blast to cap a five-run inning.
The Blue Jays have had bigger and louder nights offensively, but few wins have been more complete.
Toronto put the ball in play consistently, striking out just six times and working three walks. The Blue Jays were all over New York’s big Trade Deadline addition, too, hanging six runs on Frankie Montas over six innings and handing New York’s sports radio stations a free morning of content for Friday. Just don’t tell Montas when his next start against Springer is.
“I faced him a lot when he was with Houston. He was in another world tonight,” Montas said. “He was hitting the ball pretty good. He got a couple hits that were pretty lucky. But what did he go, 5-for-5? That’s pretty good.”
It’s the smaller moments in between Springer’s hit parade and Guerrero’s blast, however, that tied this all together for Toronto. We know the Blue Jays can hit — and hit for power — but marrying that natural talent with the club’s aggressive new mentality under Schneider will be what catapults this group forward.
There was a fine example of that earlier in the second inning, with Matt Chapman at the dish and Teoscar Hernández on first base. Chapman ripped a line drive into left field that should have been a single, but when he recognized that the throw was slow to come in and the cutoff man on the edge of the outfield grass didn’t turn quickly, he broke for second base and slid in safely with an acrobatic slide.
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Too often in recent weeks, the Blue Jays’ aggression has bitten them back, but they’re finding the balance at last.
“You want to be smart, but you want to be aggressive,” Schneider said. “It was a great slide by [Chapman]. You look at Vladdy going from first to third, too, in a 3-2 count [in the fifth]. I liked that. It’s either a double play or you’re going to third. Things like that, if we can continue to do that and maintain our offensive approach, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
The bonus on top of all of this? José Berríos looked like himself. Well, the 2017-’21 version of himself, before the ‘22 season slipped into a frustrating mess of inconsistencies.
Berríos struck out nine Yankees over 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball (one earned), and if we’re looking ahead to September and October, there may be no player on this roster more important than Berríos. Alongside Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, Berríos would give the Blue Jays three starters capable of stealing a game in the postseason.
“This does a lot for me. I’ve been dealing with a lot of mental stuff,” Berríos said, “but I came here for a purpose. I am a competitive guy. I’ve got teammates out there doing their best, so I don’t give up. That’s why I came here to the ballpark today and tried to do my best.”
It was a rare night where it all fell into place. Coming off the week that was, this was an oasis in the desert for the Blue Jays. If they can keep finding ways to repeat this style of performance offensively, we’ll soon forget what happened in early August.
George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. help Blue Jays beat Yankees – MLB.com