TORONTO — After smashing his 42nd career leadoff homer, a single and double in the first three innings, hot-hitting Blue Jays veteran George Springer was not thinking cycle in his fourth at-bat.
"If it happened, great," Springer said after the Blue Jays' 8-6 victory against Cleveland before 14,410 at Rogers Centre on Wednesday. "But I'd rather have a quality at-bat."
Springer did have a quality at-bat in the fifth, singling to left field. He already had knocked in three runs with his 4 for 5 evening that saw the Blue Jays win their fifth in six games since their Rogers Centre return last Friday.
Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo remarked Springer's hot bat was a product of his increased playing time since the off-season free-agent signing missed significant time in the first half with a left oblique strain and right quadriceps ailment.
The 31-year-old Springer, named American League player of the week on Monday, also clearly is comfortable in the leadoff spot. He has three leadoff homers in five games. In 16 games as the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter, he has gone 24 for 64 (.375) with eight homers, eight doubles, 16 RBIs and eight walks.
"I was groomed to hit first my whole career," he said. "I understand it's the same thing as any other at-bat. I just happen to hit first."
Toronto (56-49) scored all its runs in the first three innings and improved to seven games over the .500 mark for the first time since a 13-6 start in April 2018. The Rogers Centre return has been a factor, as has the addition of pitchers Jose Berrios, Brad Hand and Joakim Soria through trades last week.
"We're energized to have the guys on the roster we have now," Springer said, "and to be back home (has helped)."
The Blue Jays recipe for success back at their home field has been early offence and effective pitching from their starters against struggling lineups from the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland (52-53) -- and Springer's bat.
This time lefty Steven Matz (9-6) came through with six solid scoreless innings in his first start in Toronto. He struck out eight and surrendered six hits. He credited work on improving his curveball in between outings for just his second win in his last six starts.
The Blue Jays scored all their runs in the first three innings. After singling to centre and scoring on Bo Bichette's grounder to shortstop in the second inning, Springer's centre-field double knocked in two more runs in the third.
After Springer's leadoff prowess, left fielder Corey Dickerson pushed Toronto to a 3-0 advantage in the first inning with a two-run double to right. Dickerson was playing in his second game after being sidelined with a left foot injury that accompanied him when he was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in late June.
Randal Grichuk singled home Dickerson.
Before Springer's two-run double in the third inning, catcher Reese McGuire doubled home Grichuk for a 6-0 lead.
Justin Garza replaced Cleveland starter J.C. Mejia (1-7) after McGuire's one-out double. Mejia hasn't won since May 24 against the Detroit Tigers.
Soria was placed on the 10-day injured list before the game with an inflamed middle finger on his throwing hand. Tayler Saucedo was summoned from Triple-A Buffalo as a result.
Saucedo struggled in relief in the eighth, yielding five straight hits. Cleveland second baseman Owen Miller hit a bases-clearing double down the left-field line with the bases loaded. He then scored on Bradley Zimmer's sacrifice fly to centre.
Jose Ramirez and Oscar Mercado smacked ninth-inning homers off of Toronto closer Jordan Romano.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 4, 2021.