Hernández leads Blue Jays to wild 10-8 victory in Toronto’s first home opener since 2019

By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto

The Blue Jays’ first home opener in Toronto in three years will not be soon forgotten by Teoscar Hernández, his teammates or the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.

Hernández had a three-point blast and scored the game-winning run as Toronto rallied for a boisterous 10-8 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday. It was the first time Rogers Center had hosted a home opener since 2019 as COVID-19 restrictions forced the Blue Jays to play all of 2020 and most of 2021 in Dunedin, Utah. Florida, and in Buffalo, NY.

When the team returned to Toronto late last summer, Ontario still had capacity limits in place for most venues, limiting the cavernous Rogers Center to just 15,000 fans.

“The moment was very special,” Hernández said of Friday’s win. “I don’t think there is a single player at this club who is going to forget today what happened today.”

Hernández played in Toronto’s last home opener at Rogers Centre, a 2-0 loss to Detroit, but the Blue Jays’ core of young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio had none never experienced until Friday.

They had the full experience with a crowd of 45,022 at Rogers Centre, the first sold-out venue at the Toronto baseball stadium since March 29, 2018, cheering and booing wildly with every lead change in the first leg- return.

“We always knew it would be like this from the start,” Hernández said. “We are delighted to be back and enjoying every moment with the fans.”

Danny Jansen added some confidence with an eighth-inning homer as Toronto (1-0) came back from a 7-0 deficit.

José Berríos allowed four runs in just one-third of an inning as Toronto’s opening day starter went away without a decision. Berríos said he felt good warming up before the game, but when he got to the mound he was throwing instead of throwing.

“As for the game, I was trying to be too perfect, I think it was too mean and I didn’t throw the ball over the plate,” he said.

Seven relievers came out of the Blue Jays bullpen, with Adam Cimber recording the win and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont. earning the stoppage.

“Everyone here can help the team win ball games and we saw that tonight our bullpen kept us in the game,” Berríos said. “They fought, they threw, they competed.”

Mitch Garver’s two-run homer helped Texas (0-1) take a 6-0 lead late in the sixth inning. Brad Miller and Adolis Garcia added solo explosions for the visitors.

Jon Gray struck out four but allowed three runs in four innings for the Rangers and left the game when he developed a blister on his throwing hand. Dennis Santana, one of four Texas relievers, suffered the loss.

A lengthy pre-match ceremony kept the crowd on their feet for more than 35 minutes. Guerrero, Hernández and Marcus Semien — who signed with Texas in the offseason after playing for the Blue Jays last year — officially received their Silver Slugger awards. Guerrero received the loudest cheers, including MVP chants, as he emerged from the dugout during team introductions.

Miller, starting for Texas, immediately calmed the Rogers Center crowd when he bounced a 1-2 shot from Berríos onto the stadium’s second deck.

Berríos’ struggles did not end there. He couldn’t get his first out until he was six in the Rangers lineup and Toronto trailed 3-0. Midway through the fourth inning, Texas had taken a 7-0 lead.

“It’s funny because it seems like everyone was a little nervous at first because we were expecting so many people and we want to put on a good show for them,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“But then we settled down.”

Guerrero brought back George Springer in singles at fourth and moved Bichette to second. Hernández then walked to load the bases and brought in Lourdes Gurriel Jr., at bat.

Gurriel struck in a defender’s choice by scoring Bichette and Alejandro Kirk’s sacrifice fly brought Guerrero down to cut Texas’ lead to 7-3.

“You give them some hope, they’re going to feed on it,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “They’re a very talented team but also emotional, so they feed off that emotion.”

Toronto’s top batting order continued to crumble in the fifth.

Springer tied the game with two strikeouts before Bichette and Guerrero had back-to-back singles to score again. Hernández then broke a pitch just over the right field fence to tie the game 7-7.

Santiago Espinal, pinch hitter for Biggio, gave Toronto its first lead of the game with a brace in the sixth, conceding Jansen. But Garcia tied it for Texas in the seventh with his home run.

A controversial late-inning play put Toronto back in front.

Hernández was taken out at home plate by umpire Bill Welke when Gurriel doubled deep to the left and advanced to third on Miller’s pitch. Fans chanted “Safe!” as the umpires surveyed the play, but erupted in cheers when the call was called off and Hernández was declared safe.

“I mean, there’s no better time than this,” Hernández said.

Jansen gave the Blue Jays more cushion with a one-out home run for the game’s final score.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 8, 2022.

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