TORONTO — After Bradley Zimmer made a spectacular diving catch in centre field for the Blue Jays, George Springer joked with manager Charlie Montoyo in Toronto's dugout about becoming a full-time designated hitter.
Springer certainly thrived at DH on Saturday, hitting two solo home runs as the Blue Jays held off the Houston Astros 2-1.
"If that's what he wants me to do that day, I do it," said Springer. "I'm not going to complain. I don't care. It doesn't bother me. I'm here for us.
"If that means I DH, I play right, I play centre, or whatever the case, I'll do it."
Montoyo said that Springer's regular position as Toronto's centre-fielder is safe, but he appreciates the star's willingness to play wherever he's needed.
"I'm glad that he doesn't mind DHing because for some guys it's tough, it's not easy to do, because guys are used to playing every day," said Montoyo. "He's comfortable doing it though so it's great."
José Berríos (2-0) struck out five over 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks. Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza and Jordan Romano threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball for Toronto (14-8).
Romano, from Markham, Ont., earned his 10th save of the season.
"I've been feeling more in rhythm, stronger and more confident with my pitches," said Berríos. "Today I threw a better off-speed, breaking pitch, so I want to keep building on that."
Yordan Alvarez's home run kept the Astros (11-10) in the game. Luis Garcia (1-1) allowed two runs on five hits and a walk, striking out five. Seth Martinez and Ryne Stanek came out of the bullpen for Houston.
Springer hit his fifth homer of the season in the Blue Jays' first at-bat of the game. It was the 46th leadoff homer of Springer's nine-year career, tied with Jimmy Rollins for sixth in Major League Baseball history. Former Blue Jays outfielder Rickey Henderson is the all-time leadoff home run leader with 81.
"Any time you can get the first guy on base of an inning is huge and allows guys to hit in the way that they want to hit," said Springer. "You always like to be up 1-0 or whatever the case, but I just think any time you can score or get to first base to start an inning is huge."
Alvarez cut into that lead in the fourth. Hitting leadoff in the inning, he put a 2-1 pitch from Berríos to dead centre for his sixth of the season.
Springer struck again in the third inning, launching a 2-0 pitch to left-centre field with one out to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
Home plate empire Nic Lentz called Vladimir Guerrero Jr. out on a close strike call for the final out of the fifth inning, with the big Toronto first baseman tossing his bat in anger. Montoyo immediately stormed out of the dugout to argue the call and was tossed from the game for his efforts.
"(I was) deflecting attention from my MVP," said Montoyo. "I'd rather watch the game from the office than have Vlad watch the game from the office."
Romano got leadoff hitter Chas McCormick to ground out to shortstop Bo Bichette to start the ninth inning. The Toronto closer then struck out Niko Goodrum and, with the Rogers Centre crowd of 40,732 on its feet, induced an Alex Bregman flyout.
LIVE BP — Blue Jays lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (forearm) pitched three innings of live batting practice on Saturday morning, facing Teoscar Hernández (oblique) among others while being caught by Danny Jansen (oblique). Montoyo said that all three looked good in the session. He added that Ryu and Hernández may need rehab appearances with triple-A Buffalo before returning to the Blue Jays' lineup.
SAUCED — Left-handed pitcher Tayler Saucedo was placed on the 10-day injured list by the Blue Jays ahead of Saturday's game. He will undergo an MRI after he was pulled from Friday's 11-7 loss to Houston with right hip discomfort. Righty Bowden Francis was recalled from Buffalo to replace Saucedo, a day after he had been sent down to the triple-A club. Montoyo joked that Francis had to turn around at Niagara Falls but the pitcher confirmed he had arrived in Buffalo before having to return to Toronto.
LOOKING AHEAD — Kevin Gausman (1-1) gets the start for the Blue Jays in Sunday's matinee against Houston. Framber Valdez (1-1) will take the mound for the Astros.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press