TORONTO — Left-fielder Teoscar Hernandez was so excited by the biggest game of his young career that he couldn’t wait to see his family visiting him in Toronto. Unfortunately, that meant rushing out of the clubhouse before anyone else got to speak with him.
The 24-year-old Hernandez hit home runs in back-to-back innings and batted in five runs to power Toronto past the Detroit Tigers 8-2 on Sunday afternoon to become the first Blue Jays rookie with a multi-homer game since J.P. Arencibia did it on July 22, 2011. He also added a single and scored a run in only his seventh game with Toronto.
"If you’ve been around the game for a while it’s nice to see the wide-eyed look, the excitement," said veteran infielder Darwin Barney, who went 4 for 4 on the day. "It brings some energy to these games where maybe both teams aren’t necessarily where they want to be. There’s a lot to be played for right now for some people so it was fun to watch."
Hernandez played 41 games for the Houston Astros in 2016 and one game for them in 2017 before coming to Toronto with veteran outfielder Nori Aoki in a trade for pitcher Francisco Liriano on July 31. Although he had previously played in 48 MLB games, Hernandez still qualifies as a rookie since he had less than 130 at-bats heading into Sunday’s game.
His enthusiasm on and off the field is a welcome addition to a Blue Jays team that will be missing the post-season for the first time in three years.
"I told him congrats every time he came through the dugout," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "They’re getting a lot of backslapping so they don’t need a lot from me, really. Kid’s got a big smile. Kid’s got energy, enthusiasm. One of those guys that brings energy."
Hernandez hit his second homer in a four-run fifth inning that saw every Toronto (66-77) batter come to the plate. Shortstop Richard Urena, another September call-up, also played well with a leadoff single in the first inning that he later scored on.
J.A. Happ (8-10) struck out nine over six innings of work, allowing two runs — one earned — as the Blue Jays won the three-game series with back-to-back wins. Luis Santos made his third MLB appearance, pitching three innings of scoreless relief to earn his first career save.
Happ’s solid performance is welcome news for the Blue Jays who had to end right-hander Aaron Sanchez’s season after Sunday’s game. Sanchez has struggled with a nagging blister on his throwing hand all year and Toronto will not test it, instead letting him recuperate in the off-season.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer for Detroit’s (60-82) only offence. Anibal Sanchez (3-4) struggled, giving up seven runs on 12 hits over 4 2/3 innings. Jeff Ferrell, Artie Lewicki and former Blue Jay Daniel Norris came out of the Tigers bullpen, allowing only one unearned run.
Hernandez added to Toronto’s lead with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, driving in Ryan Goins ahead of him. Hernandez’s hit was just over the outfield wall with Detroit centre-fielder JaCoby Jones climbing the wall in an effort to make a jumping catch.
Kinsler got the Tigers on the board in the next inning, putting his 17th home run over the left-field fence, a two-run shot that also brought home Dixon Machado. Machado had reached base on Urena’s error.
Kevin Pillar’s dribbling single between first and second cashed in Jose Bautista in the fifth to make it 4-2 and advance Morales to second. That set the stage for Hernandez’s second homer of the game, a 355-foot blast to right field that gave Toronto a five-run lead and brought the 39,797 in attendance at Rogers Centre to their feet.
"Standing in the on-deck circle and you see a guy go deep like that a couple of times all you want to do is go deep behind him," said Barney. "It’s fun to watch a guy come up here, have excitement, spark some things and make it happen. Hopefully he can keep it going."
Hernandez added to his impressive outing in the seventh inning when he scored on a passed ball with Luke Maile at the plate to give Toronto an 8-2 advantage.