Same hitters, different order, same result.
The Blue Jays shuffled their lineup on Saturday, moving George Springer into the leadoff spot with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. behind him in the No. 2 hole. The star-studded top of the order answered immediately, launching five home runs in a 10-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Springer got things going with a solo homer in the third, highlighting one of his best all-around games that also featured an incredible diving catch in the outfield. Teoscar Hernández hit his 14th and 15th home runs of the season, driving in four, and was joined by Marcus Semien (24 home runs) and Bo Bichette (17).
The only batter in the top five of the order who didn’t homer was Guerrero. But he was one of six Blue Jays players who had multiple hits, which included denting the wall with a 115.9 mph double in the fifth, as he continues to be one of baseball’s hottest hitters.
“It’s great, but I think the way that Bo, Marcus and Vladdy really set the tone for the first 90-plus games, I can’t say enough about the job they’ve done,” Springer said. “To be inserted there today, it’s awesome. But again, I can’t commend them enough for what they’ve done throughout the first 90-plus games. They’re All-Stars hitting in that spot, so I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
Toronto's offensive outburst covered up an unusual start from ace Hyun Jin Ryu, who hit a wall in the fifth and exited after allowing three runs on 10 hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
Here is a look inside the Blue Jays' new lineup. Manager Charlie Montoyo could draw these five names from a hat and still have a strong order most nights, but there’s some reason to the decisions and timing.
Before: Semien, Bichette, Guerrero, Springer, Hernández
After: Springer, Guerrero, Semien, Bichette, Hernández
It’s always been headed this way eventually, but a few factors delayed the inevitable through the first half of the season.
“The top five guys are all having good years, but there was always the idea of hitting one of the best leadoff guys in baseball [at] leadoff: George Springer,” Montoyo explained. “But he got hurt, and obviously, Marcus Semien took over that spot and became an All-Star, having a great year. It got to a point where we want to get George going more and get him more at-bats. He’s more comfortable leading off. That’s what he’s done the whole time.”
Why this order?
At the top, Springer is back in his natural spot. He has led off in 608 of his 822 MLB games and performed well there, so when you consider his on-base tool and ability to start the game with a bang, it’s an easy choice. Having Guerrero bat second should also get him a few more plate appearances in 2021, as the Blue Jays try to jump on opposing pitchers early, which they love to do.
“It’s all the same, but I think I’m just able to attack the pitcher in a bit of a different way,” Springer said. “It’s something that I’ve done my whole career. I know how to do it, so it felt good.”
Beyond that, this is about protection. Don’t want to pitch to Guerrero? There’s Semien. Don’t want to pitch to Bichette? There’s Hernández, who’s heating up. Montoyo likes Bichette in the cleanup spot, too, because if one of the three stars ahead of him reaches base in the first, there comes Bichette with his aggressive approach that Montoyo feels is made for driving in runs.
Keeping things consistent
Remember 2019? The Blue Jays rolled out different lineups seemingly every game as they entered the early stages of their rebuild at the MLB level. Things have changed, with Montoyo sticking to a similar lineup through the first four months of the '21 season -- especially near the top -- and that’s been an easy decision.
“That means everybody is having good years, when you have the same lineup all the time,” Montoyo said. “Today just happens to be the right time to move it around just a little bit. It’s the same top five guys, just in different spots. But I do enjoy having the same lineup.”
With the Nos. 1-5 hitters racking up 11 hits and 10 RBIs on Saturday, Montoyo’s decision moving forward is easy. The bottom of the lineup could use some work, and that time will come. But if the top half is hitting at this level, the Blue Jays will be a nightmare for opposing pitchers.