Blue Jays get to witness the magic of George Springer

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: George Springer #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his two-run home run in the 9th inning to tie the game with Santiago Espinal #5 during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: George Springer #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his two-run home run in the 9th inning to tie the game with Santiago Espinal #5 during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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George Springer did what he does best on Tuesday, serving as the catalyst for a triumphant Blue Jays comeback against the Red Sox

There are two sides to George Springer.

One is the consummate teammate, a man who keeps the clubhouse together with the force of his personality. Whether in his time in Houston or his two years in a Blue Jays uniform, he is the glue that keeps everyone attached and working together. Look at Springer before games or in the Blue Jays dugout and he constantly has a smile on his face, playing around with teammates, from seasoned veterans to the youngest rookies.

But, when there is a job to be done, Springer’s demeanour changes. The smile is gone. Play time is over. It’s time to get to work, and there is no one better at coming through in clutch moments than the Blue Jays’ star centre fielder.

The Blue Jays were facing near impossible odds on Tuesday in a divisional matchup against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox had scored four times in the top half of the eighth inning and took a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. After plating one run, Springer came up representing the tying run with two outs and Santiago Espinal standing on second base.

Red Sox left-hander Jake Diekman found the top of the zone with a fastball for a called strike one. Springer took the next two pitches for balls before, and with the count 2-1, Diekman came with another 96 mph fastball. This one stayed in the middle of the plate and Springer didn’t miss, sending it 423 feet to centre for a home run to tie the game 5-5. Only once before at the Rogers Centre has a Blue Jays batter hit a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth inning while trailing by at least two runs.

Springer celebrated his 200th career home run by pumping his fist and raising his arm in the air rounding first base. It was a joyous celebration from a man who has fun playing baseball and isn’t afraid to show it. Springer thrives in those types of moments, from the grand stage of the World Series to an April game against a division rival.

“That was special what Springer did,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after the Blue Jays completed the comeback with a 6-5 win in extra innings. “You don’t teach that. He wants it. He’s one of those guys, and that’s why he does so good in the playoffs. He’s one of the best players in playoff history because he’s waiting for those moments to happen.”

A healthy Springer giving the Blue Jays everything they could’ve asked for

Springer made a name for himself while with the Astros as one of baseball’s premier big-moment performers. He ranks in the top-five all-time with 19 postseason home runs. He has a higher career OPS in the World Series than Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. In 2017, while guiding the Astros to their first world championship in franchise history, he was named World Series MVP after hitting five home runs in Houston’s seven-game win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That was the Springer the Blue Jays were expecting when they signed him to a six-year, $150 million free agent deal before the 2021 season. And, for parts of last season, they got it. But more often Springer was stuck in the dugout or in the trainer’s room, a litany of injuries from a knee sprain to a strained oblique, limiting him to just 78 games.

Now that he’s back fully healthy, the Blue Jays are finally getting to experience the magic he can create on a baseball field. The night before his game-tying homer, Springer made a diving catch on a liner into the left-centre gap by Kevin Plawecki. Had he failed to come up with the catch, the Red Sox would’ve had a runner in scoring position with the top of their lineup coming up in what was still a scoreless game in the fifth inning. Instead, the inning was over and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-2.

Springer has appeared in less than 100 games in a Blue Jays uniform, but he’s already etched his name into the franchise record book. He’s one of only six players with an OPS above .900 in their first 95 games and trails only Jose Canseco with 26 home runs. He already has the third-most leadoff homers by a Blue Jay at the Rogers Centre, despite playing just 37 games there; the two players ahead of him, Alex Rios and Devon White, played 405 and 329, respectively. Most importantly for a team with World Series aspirations, the Blue Jays are 59-36 in games Springer plays the last two seasons, 44-41 when he doesn’t.

The clutch home runs. The sensational catches in the outfield. The playfulness with his teammates. The Blue Jays only got a glimpse of it in 2021.

Next. Rare mistake from the Rays has benefitted the Blue Jays. dark

So far in 2022, they’re getting to witness the whole show.

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