HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder George Springer thought he had hit a ninth-inning, game-tying homer. So did manager AJ Hinch and probably everybody else inside Minute Maid Park on Monday night not named Randal Grichuk.
Grichuk, who crushed a two-run homer off reliever Will Harris in the eighth inning and had just moved to right field after playing the first eight innings in center, made a spectacular catch at the wall by reaching high above the yellow line to rob Springer of a three-run homer and preserve the Blue Jays' 6-3 win in the series opener.
"That sucks," a clearly frustrated Springer said. "There's really not anything else to say about it. It's tough. It is what it is. They win."
Pinch-hitters Tony Kemp (walk) and Josh Reddick (single) reached to start the ninth against Blue Jays reliever Seunghwan Oh, setting the stage for Springer with a chance to play hero. Springer hit a 92-mph fastball -- a projected 368 feet according to Statcast™ -- to right field, where Grichuk was waiting to time his jump perfectly and make the catch. Springer bowed his head in disbelief.
"Baseball can be pretty cruel," Hinch said. "That's a tough one. I thought off the bat, I thought George got one. It carried and carried and carried, and you could see him try to find the wall, and it looked like it went pretty deep into the stands. Certainly with the way the game was, to be able to get two leadoff runners on and set the table for the top of the order, then George delivers a great swing … cruel sport."
The catch capped an 0-for-5 night for Springer, extending his slump to 0-for-16.
"That would have been big," Hinch said. "George, we know he's going to be there and we know he's going to break out of it in a big way. That would have continued the game. Getting back to tie it would have felt like the lead with the momentum shift and being able to answer their lead with a three-run homer. It's so hard to come back at that point of the game."
While the Astros were robbed of a homer that would have landed a couple of rows deep, starting pitcher Justin Verlander (9-3) was burned by a pair of homers that landed in the front row of the seats by his former teammate and friend, Curtis Granderson. He homered to right in the fifth to tie the game at 3, and he put the Blue Jays ahead, 4-3, in the seventh with a fly ball into the front row of the Crawford Boxes in left.
"I'm not a huge fan of the Crawford Boxes right now," Verlander said. "The one to right, I thought he had. I thought Curtis got that one pretty good. The one to left, I didn't think he got that very well."
Grichuk, who grew up about 35 miles from Houston, hit a two-out, two-run homer off Harris in the eighth inning that traveled a projected 471 feet, according to Statcast™, and put the Jays ahead, 6-3. It was the longest recorded home run at Minute Maid Park since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015 and the longest by a Blue Jays hitter this season.All all six Toronto runs scored with two outs.
"He has a lot of strength and he hits a lot of home runs, and that's one of the things he brings to the table and it burns Will," Hinch said. "It's part of the cruel side of the sport where you make one, maybe 1 1/2 mistakes, and it gave them a bigger lead that we could come back on."
Justin Smoak gave the Jays a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-run double, but an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the first, a solo homer by Alex Bregman in the third and an RBI single by Bregman in the fourth put the Astros ahead, 3-2.
The four earned runs by Verlander were his most in an Astros uniform. He had allowed three earned runs or fewer in his first 21 regular-season starts with the club, which was the longest streak by a pitcher to start his Astros career (Darryl Kile had 14 in 1991). Only three others pitchers since 1920 had done that for at least 21 starts -- Gary Peters (25 for the 1963 White Sox), Pascual Perez (24 for the 1987 Expos) and Aaron Sele (21 for the 1993-94 White Sox).
HE SAID IT
"He's a great guy and we've been friends for a long time, but I'd rather not give up homers to people I know." -- Verlander, on Granderson, his former teammate with the Tigers
Right-hander Charlie Morton seeks his 10th win of the season at 7:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday when the Astros face the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Morton has walked 14 batters and hit five in his past three starts, a span of 15 2/3 innings, but he has allowed only four earned runs. Toronto's starting pitcher has yet to be announced.