Teoscar Hernandez, his teammates or the packed crowd at Rogers Center won’t soon forget the Blue Jays’ first home game in Toronto in three years.
When the team returned to Toronto late last summer, Ontario still had capacity limits for most venues, limiting the cavernous Rogers Center to just 15,000 fans.
“The moment was very special,” Hernandez said of Friday’s win. “I don’t think there is a single player in this clubhouse who will forget what happened today.”
Hernandez played in Toronto’s final home opener at the Rogers Center, a 2-0 loss to Detroit, but the Blue Jays’ core of young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio had never experienced it until on Friday.
They got the full experience with a crowd of 45,022 at the Rogers Centre, Toronto’s first ballpark since March 29, 2018, wildly cheering and booing with every lead change in the back-and-forth game.
“We always knew it was going to be that way from the beginning,” Hernandez said. “We are excited to be back and enjoying every moment with the fans.”
Danny Jansen added some safety with an eighth-inning home run as Toronto (1-0) rallied from a 7-0 deficit.
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José Berríos gave up four runs in just a third of an inning as Toronto’s Opening Day starter escaped 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 far as the game goes, I was trying to be too perfect, I think too obnoxious and I didn’t throw the ball over home plate,” he said.
Seven relievers came out of the Blue Jays bullpen, with Adam Cimber recording the win and Jordan Romano of nearby Markham, Ontario, earning the save.
Mitch Garver’s two-run homer helped Texas (0-1) build a 6-0 lead late in the sixth inning. Brad Miller and Adolis Garcia added solo blasts 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 pitching hand. Dennis Santana, one of four Texas relievers, took the loss.
A lengthy pregame ceremony kept the crowd on its feet for more than 35 minutes. Guerrero, Hernandez and Marcus Semien, who signed with Texas in the offseason after playing for the Blue Jays last year, formally received their Silver Slugger awards. Guerrero got the loudest applause, including MVP chants, as he trotted off the bench during team introductions.
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Miller, starting for Texas, immediately silenced the Rogers Center crowd when he bounced Berríos’ 1-2 pitch off the second floor of the stadium.
Berríos’ struggles did not end there. He couldn’t get the first out out of him until he had six batters in the Rangers’ lineup and Toronto trailed 3-0. Midway through the fourth inning, Texas had built a 7-0 lead.
“It’s funny because it seems like everybody was a little nervous at first because we were expecting a lot of people and we want to put on a good show for them,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.
“But then we settled down.”
Guerrero singled off George Springer in the fourth and advanced Bichette to second. Hernández then walked to load the bases and brought Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to bat.
Gurriel hit on a fielder’s pick that scored Bichette and Alejandro Kirk’s sacrifice fly brought in Guerrero to cut Texas’ lead to 7-3.
“You give them a little bit of hope, they’re going to feed off of that,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “They are a very talented team but also emotional, so they feed off that emotion.”
The top of Toronto’s batting order continued to drop in the fifth.
Springer walked with two out before Bichette and Guerrero each had back-to-back singles to score again. Hernandez then threw a pitch just over the right field fence to tie the game 7-7.
A controversial play in the bottom of that inning put Toronto back in front.
Hernandez was called out at the plate by umpire Bill Welke when Gurriel doubled to deep left field and advanced to third on Miller’s throw. Fans chanted “Sure!” as umpires reviewed the play, but erupted in applause when the decision was reversed and Hernandez was ruled safe.
“I mean, there’s no better time than that,” Hernandez said.
Jansen gave the Blue Jays more than a cushion with a one-out home run for the game’s final score.