TORONTO – The nice thing about having five All-Star-calibre hitters in your lineup is that no matter how you sequence them, the resulting batting order is going to be tough on opposing pitchers.
So whether you attribute the Toronto Blue Jays’ offensive outburst Saturday to a stroke of genius on the part of manager Charlie Montoyo or consider it the natural consequence of a lineup featuring so many talented hitters in one place, the end result was still the same: Toronto’s revamped batting order hit five home runs on the way to a much-needed 10-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field in New York.
“It felt like it was time to make a move,” Montoyo said via Zoom afterwards. “I’m glad it worked out great.”
“You’ve got to give the hitters credit for what they did,” he added. “I don’t need any credit for anything. I’m good. But the hitters deserve credit. They were comfortable. They felt good about it. We talked to all of them before we made the adjustment and they had a great game.”
With the win, the Blue Jays end a three-game losing streak and improve to 49-45 on the season. And while some lineup tinkering is sure to continue as the season unfolds, Montoyo could hardly have hoped for better production from his top five.
• New leadoff hitter George Springer got the scoring started with his eighth home run of the season – and his 139th career home run from the top spot in the lineup – on a night he also made a spectacular diving catch in left-centre field.
• Batting in the two hole for the first time this season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. delivered yet another multi-hit game.
• Making his first career appearance in the cleanup spot, Bo Bichette collected two hits, including his 17th home run of the season.
• And finally, from the fifth spot, Teoscar Hernandez contributed two home runs of his own while also making a highlight catch right field.
To assume that the Blue Jays broke out offensively because of the new batting order would defy logic – these players are talented enough to produce no matter where you hit them. And plus, it’s just one game.
But setting Saturday’s results aside, there was a compelling case to be made for trying something different atop the Toronto batting order. The higher hitters bat in the order, the more plate appearances they get in the course of a season, so it stands to reason teams should stack their best hitters toward the top of the lineup.
With that in mind, it makes sense that we’d see Guerrero Jr. and Springer atop the order. Not only do they have excellent numbers now, forecasting tools like FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections say they’re likely the Blue Jays’ two best hitters going forward. Now, those two will be hitting more than anyone else.
Even beyond the numbers, the Blue Jays needed to change their fortunes after an ill-timed three-game skid with the trade deadline approaching. Now, they have a little momentum heading into Sunday’s finale in Queens.
“My mentality, the game, it’s all the same,” Springer said afterwards. “But I’m able to attack the pitcher in a little bit of a different way (as a leadoff hitter), I guess. It’s something I’ve done my whole career and I know how to do it. It felt good.”
So did the diving catch Springer made, a grab he said was probably the favourite defensive play he’s ever made. Considering the quad injury that sidelined the centre fielder for much of the season’s first half, that’s encouraging for the Blue Jays, too.
“That was one of the best plays I’ve seen this year for sure,” Montoyo said. “He went a long way for that ball.”
“I’m not hesitating out there,” Springer added. “I feel physically great. I was able to make a good jump on it and was able to get to it. So I feel great and hopefully I can stay there.”
While the offence did most of the work, the Blue Jays got some strong pitching performances as well. Though Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed 10 hits, he limited the Mets to three runs over 4.1 innings before handing the ball to an effective bullpen.
Those relievers have plenty of work ahead as the Blue Jays make their way through a stretch of 18 games in 17 days, but at the same time the Blue Jays can’t afford to let more winnable games slip away.
"It's one game at a time and it's about winning the game you're playing,” Montoyo said. “Never mind tomorrow or the next day. You've got to worry about that game. And today they did an outstanding job. And the defence also."
Of course, with the trade deadline approaching Friday, run prevention will be a major focus all week. At least this lineup gives the Blue Jays an offence worth building around, no matter how you shuffle the first few names in that batting order.