BALTIMORE -- There have been two dozen other Canadians who wore a Blue Jays uniform, but none of them ever had a game quite like Michael Saunders did Friday night in Baltimore.
Saunders set career highs with three home runs and eight RBIs in a 13-3 victory over the Orioles. He hit a pair of three-run homers early in the game and then completed baseball's version of the hat trick with a two-run shot in the sixth.
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Along the way, Saunders became just the fourth Canadian to hit three home runs in the same game. He joined Justin Morneau, Joey Votto and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker, but unlike the others, Saunders did his while playing for the only team north of the border.
"Those are guys that I grew up watching and idolizing," said Saunders, who also flew out to the warning track in left in one of his other two at-bats. "It's a proud Canadians kind of thing. Getting to know them over the years, they're great people. I'm close friends with all of them, and it's good company to join."
The game might have been taking place in Baltimore, but there was still a distinctly Canadian feel when Saunders' third homer of the night cleared the wall in right. Some fans who made the trip south began tossing their hats onto the field to honor the longtime hockey tradition.
The scene brought back memories of 2015, when Edwin Encarnacion also went deep three times in the same game. He was treated to a standing ovation at Rogers Centre, and there was a lengthy delay as the grounds crew spent the next 10 minutes trying to clear the hats off the field.
Saunders became the 15th player in franchise history to hit at least three home runs in a game. Carlos Delgado is the only one to do it five times. Saunders also fell just one RBI shy of the club record, which was set by Roy Howell on Sept. 10, 1977, and repeated by Encarnacion on Aug. 29, 2015.
"He just missed that fourth one, too," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Michael's in a nice little groove, he's having a heck of a year for us. He's showing good power, and he's using the whole field. ... Great, great effort by him tonight."
Saunders enjoyed a special night, but don't call this a breakout game, because in reality, it's just a continuation of what he has been doing for most of the season. When Toronto's powerful offense was struggling early in the year, Saunders was the one constant, and he hasn't looked back since.
The 29-year-old is first among qualified American League outfielders this season with a .999 OPS. He's also leading with a .314 average, tied for third with 15 home runs and tied for ninth with 36 runs scored. A lot of people expected a bounceback season, but nobody expected something quite like this.
"I'm just happy to be here," Saunders said. "From the moment I got traded [from Seattle], it was kind of a surreal moment for me. It was a dream of mine growing up, growing up obviously in Canada and the Jays being my hometown team. Getting to do this with the Blue Jays uniform on is pretty special for me, but ultimately, what's more important is that we won this game."