Springer's RBI single lifts Blue Jays over Mariners 3-2 in rematch of AL wild card

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TORONTO — As far as the Toronto Blue Jays are concerned, there was no redemption in beating the team that eliminated them from last year's playoffs.

Alejandro Kirk had three hits, including a solo homer, as Toronto eked out a 3-2 win over Seattle on Friday. The last time the Mariners played at Rogers Centre was Oct. 8 when they rallied to a dramatic 10-9 victory to complete a two-game sweep of the American League's wild-card series.

"You cannot compare the regular season with the way everybody felt in the post-season last year," said Kirk through translator Hector Lebron. "But it always feels good to beat a team like that."

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Toronto manager John Schneider echoed Kirk's sentiment, noting that both teams retooled in the off-season. The Blue Jays' front office was particularly busy after the disappointing showing in the wild-card series, adding veteran outfielders Kevin Kiermaier, Daulton Varsho and Brandon Belt as well as starting pitcher Chris Bassitt.

"This is a totally different team than we had last year. It's totally different for them," said Schneider. "We're on to the next one tomorrow. It's nice to win every game."

George Springer hit a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning as Toronto (17-9) won its fifth consecutive game. Matt Chapman also drove in a run with a double. Blue Jays infielder Whit Merrifield's second-inning double ensured that he reached base for the 20th consecutive game.

"We have a great, great team. Last year, we also had a great team," said Kirk. "Things didn't work out the way we wanted them to but right now, we're doing good.

"We're very together here in the clubhouse. We're feeling good and hopefully we can continue this run."

Alek Manoah gave up six hits and four walks, but struck out seven and allowed just two runs over five innings to lower his earned-run average from 5.13 to 4.88.

Tim Mayza picked up the win, as he, Yimi Garcia, Erik Swanson and closer Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., pitched four scoreless innings of relief. Romano earned his ninth save of the season.

Cal Raleigh had a home run and an RBI single for Seattle (11-15), which has dropped three straight.

Starting pitcher Luis Castillo gave up six hits and two walks, striking out four and allowing two runs over five innings. Reliever Trevor Gott (0-1) took the loss after giving up Springer's RBI, with Matt Brash and Penn Murfee also taking the mound.

Raleigh led off the second inning with his third home run of the season. Manoah quickly loaded the bases after Raleigh's blast, with only one out from a fielder's choice.

Chapman smoothly handled a hit from Ty France at third base to turn a quick double play and get his starter out of the jam.

"Chap's the best third baseman in the league and when in doubt, just throw a sinker and let them hit it to him," said Manoah on Chapman's sharp play.

Kirk replied in the bottom of the inning, hitting a solo shot with two out. His 401-foot home run bounced off a guardrail above the left-field fence.

Raleigh struck again in the third, bouncing a hit into deep right field. Jarred Kelenic easily beat Springer's throw from the outfield to restore Seattle's one-run lead.

But Toronto again answered back in the bottom of the inning.

Chapman banged a double off the centre-field wall, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showing surprising speed — he tossed his batting helmet off between second and third — to score from first and tie it 2-2.

Springer gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the game in the sixth, hitting a single score Merrifield. Springer had left Toronto's 8-0 rout of the visiting Chicago White Sox on Wednesday after being hit by a pitch on his right wrist.

Schneider said the team's day off Thursday had been well timed for Springer to recover from the contusion and he was able to leadoff Toronto's batting order against Seattle.

TEO RETURNS — Mariners right-fielder Teoscar Hernández made his first appearance in Toronto since the Blue Jays traded him to Seattle on Nov. 16. Manoah made a point of stepping off the mound so Hernández could get a proper ovation from the 41,414 fans at Rogers Centre.

"He was great for us and an amazing teammate, great for the city and everybody here loves him," said Manoah "I wanted him to enjoy that moment."

ON DECK — Kevin Gausman (2-2) will get the start for Toronto in Game 2 of the three-game set with Seattle.

Chris Flexen (0-4) is scheduled to start for the Mariners in the matinee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press