Toro leads charge for Crew, homers in homecoming

Canadian infielder's two-run jack helps Teheran (6 strong IP) pick up first win since 2021

June 1st, 2023

TORONTO -- had a stinging return to the Majors. On Wednesday night, he stung right back.

Toro’s first home run with the Brewers came roughly 23 hours after his first plate appearance with the team, when he was hit by a pitch as a pinch-hitter in the series opener on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. It wasn’t necessarily the welcome he wanted, but he was quick to make some better memories.

“I’m just proud to be here,” Toro said. “Already, from the first day, you can see that this group is tight. The chemistry is there, and I think that’s the key for making the playoffs. That’s what I noticed today.”

That second-inning blast boosted Milwaukee to a 4-2 series-evening win over the Blue Jays. It also marked the third time Toro -- a Longueuil, Que., native -- homered on his home soil.

This one was a laser.

Facing Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah in his first start for the Brewers, the switch-hitting Toro watched a 93 mph fastball sail by for strike one, then he fouled off a changeup to fall in an 0-2 hole. By the time Manoah threw another fastball as his third offering, Toro was all over it, roping it to right field with an exit velocity of 102.8 mph, according to Statcast.

“Every time I come here, my family is here,” Toro said. “I’m always glad to do something special in front of them.”

By his account, “five or six” family members made the six-hour drive from Longueuil to Toronto. But that group wasn’t alone in celebrating Toro’s big game.

“He's a Canadian, so I’m happy for him,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That's not a small thing, coming here, getting called up with a new team and having a big day on your first day. … I’m really happy for Abe to just make an impact.”

The 26-year-old Toro joined the Brewers from Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday after Jesse Winker landed on the 10-day injured list with a cervical strain.

A versatile infielder with some pop in his bat, Toro landed in Milwaukee in the same offseason trade with the Mariners that brought Winker into the fold. Toro is now in his fifth year in the Majors, but consistency has been a work in progress since he cracked the big leagues with Houston in 2019.

Last season was particularly forgettable, as Toro hit just .185 with a .563 OPS over 109 games for Seattle. The trade to Milwaukee brought a fresh start, even if that meant starting the year in the Minors.

“I just worked hard in the offseason, and I definitely learned from last year,” Toro said. “The main thing was working a lot on my approach and trying to stick to my strengths rather than working more on my weaknesses.”

That was on full display as he roped Manoah’s fastball just far enough to get it over the wall.

Toro’s early long ball gave starter Julio Teheran some cushion to work with, and the veteran righty made the most of it en route to his first Major League win since 2021.

Teheran delivered six strong innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run. Curiously, he didn’t log a strikeout or issue a walk, relying instead on groundouts, some awkward fly balls and help from the Brewers’ defense.

“Obviously, every win matters, but this one is huge,” Teheran said. “ … Last year, when I was [out of MLB], I didn’t know what was going to happen. So now I’m enjoying every moment, every game, even every pitch. It’s just awesome to be back.”

That remarkable first win also made the history books. Relievers Joel Payamps, Peter Strzelecki and Devin Williams followed Teheran’s script, ending the game without any walks or strikeouts. It marked the seventh time Brewers pitchers combined for that feat, and the first since 1992.

Milwaukee’s offense gave its pitchers some breathing room in the seventh.

Owen Miller added to his hot stretch with a double off lefty reliever Tim Mayza to score a pair and extend the lead to 4-1. The infielder now owns a 1.018 OPS with eight RBIs over his past 15 games.

But Toro’s stinging swing had this one claimed from the second inning onward.

“Hopefully I can keep it going,” he said.