The third inning on Saturday night at Citi Field is exactly why the Blue Jays handed George Springer a six-year deal worth a franchise-record $150 million.
After Springer launched a solo home run in the top of the inning, the 31-year-old made one of the best defensive plays of the season in the bottom of the frame, robbing the Mets' Brandon Nimmo of extra bases early in Toronto's 10-3 win. The feat was celebrated on Monday by Major League Baseball, which named it Play of the Week.
Nimmo sliced a line drive deep into the left-center-field gap, sending Springer back toward the wall at a full sprint. Covering 79 feet in 4.6 seconds, Springer left his feet and fully extended to make a diving play before his body crashed down on the warning track. A backward somersault later, Springer popped up to his feet, celebrating with Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Nimmo had one of the best views in the house, and he had to tip his cap after Springer took away his hit.
“Honestly, obviously disappointed. But then I was like, ‘Man, that was an amazing play,’” Nimmo said. “And also, I’m glad he didn’t break his neck, because if that was six feet closer, he would have dove right into the wall. No one wants to see that. So, very happy to see him be healthy from that. But that was a heck of a play. Superman play. I went back and saw the replay and he had full-out extension."
Even Hyun Jin Ryu, the typically reserved Blue Jays ace, showed his appreciation after the catch.
“That was a great catch,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “As a pitcher, watching a play like that and having a defensive play like that behind you and not showing emotion would be something very weird.”
Highlight-reel plays are nothing new for Springer, of course. There were plenty over his seven years with the Astros.
Now, Blue Jays fans are finally getting their first look at how Springer can play at 100-percent health. Quad injuries slowed his start to the season, but he’s clearly rounding a corner now. Following the game, Springer gave some thought to where this catch ranks on his own all-time list.
“That’s probably my favorite one. It just got hit, and I just ran,” Springer said. “I could tell that I was kind of getting close to it and something told me that the wall was getting close, but I knew I had a beat on it. I knew I was committed to going for it, and I’m glad I could get there.”
Springer has been heating up offensively and almost homered in the first inning, too, while batting leadoff for the fifth time this season -- and for the first time with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. behind him at No. 2. This lineup change flipped Marcus Semien, who’s led off nearly all season, down to the No. 3 spot, with Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández behind him.
Springer’s elite leadoff potential was always one of the main attractions for the Blue Jays, but it’s the total package -- including his defense in center -- that makes Springer a special player. In the Mets’ dugout watching on as Springer made his spectacular catch? Kevin Pillar, who made some of the greatest defensive plays in Blue Jays history over his seven seasons with the organization.