Home News George Springer hits walk-off single for series win vs. Tigers

George Springer hits walk-off single for series win vs. Tigers

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TORONTO — With an offense equally capable of the blowout or the quick strike, you can’t just put the Blue Jays to bed. You need to slam the door shut and lock it behind you.

The Tigers learned that the hard way Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, as Toronto stormed back in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, setting the stage for George Springer to play the role of hero in the 10th. When Springer’s ground ball snuck through the middle and into the outfield, scoring Danny Jansen from third, Kevin Kiermaier shot out of the dugout like a bullet, soon joined by his teammates to mob the man of the moment.

For the first eight innings, though, the game trudged forth with little more to remember than some sloppy baserunning. Then the ninth came, and if you blinked, you missed the Blue Jays loading the bases with no outs. A team this talented can make a win flip from unlikely to inevitable in an instant, but it doesn’t always need to look the same.

Wednesday’s 4-3 win was about sacrifice flies, a beautiful bunt by Kiermaier and a standout defensive play by the shockingly flexible Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Just one night prior, though, the Blue Jays launched five home runs and cruised to a 9-3 win that felt completely different.

“That’s huge. To know that the home runs are in there [is good], it’s always cool to hit a homer, but to manufacture runs in a lot of other ways with walks, hits and a bunt is huge for us,” Springer said. “Again, this is a hard league. The more you’re able to do, the better.”

The ninth inning, which set up the Blue Jays’ first walk-off win in a season that’s already being defined by comebacks, was all about patience. After Guerrero singled, Matt Chapman walked and Daulton Varsho worked a full count before taking a pitch off the foot. Sacrifice flies from Whit Merrifield and Alejandro Kirk sent the game to extras.

Previous iterations of this Blue Jays team may have swung for the fences, and the bunt laid down by Kiermaier to get Jansen from second to third in the bottom of the 10th was certainly a new sight at Rogers Centre, but there’s beauty in the balance.

“There’s certain times where it’s OK to take a shot,” Springer said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean to hit a homer, just to hit the ball far or in a gap. Then, there’s a lot of times to slow down and back off the gas. It’s all going to be dictated by the scoreboard.”

In 2022 and prior, the Blue Jays were well built for drag races. They could punch the gas and go blow-for-blow with anyone on a big night, but there’s a reason they’ve spent the offseason preaching the little things. It’s late, close situations like these that separate the good teams from the great ones, because postseason baseball tends to be nine innings of these moments.

With an ability to let their foot off the gas and hit the right corners, instead of just plowing straight ahead, the Blue Jays are showing how versatile they can be.

Springer’s big hit also brought justice for Kevin Gausman, who was headed for a loss he didn’t deserve. The Tigers got to Gausman with a pair of home runs over his eight innings, but the right-hander’s splitter otherwise gave Detroit fits. Gausman struck out 11 — 10 of which came on the splitter — and didn’t issue a single walk, moving his ERA from 0.00 to 1.35 through three starts.

When Gausman looks at his trademark splitter, he admits that he’s not one for the fancy metrics. He relies more on feel and what his eyes tell him, and that’s exactly how he looks at the club around him.

“It’s such a good group of baseball guys, if that makes sense,” Gausman said. “It’s just a lot of guys who really enjoy getting dirty and being in those big situations. They kind of feed off of that. It seems like George is right in the middle of it always. That guy is about as clutch as anybody. They never give up.”

Soon enough, the Blue Jays will let you all exhale with a string of straightforward, sensible wins that are never in doubt. That just hasn’t been the case yet, and coming off a 2022 season that was defined by one-run games, it’s becoming the identity of this club: they’re never boring.

Now, Toronto is better suited than it has been in years for those games. Even if the first eight innings are ugly, as long as the club can keep it within a touchdown, it’s still its game to win.

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