Springer greets Houston fans with leadoff home run, Blue Jays beat Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — George Springer hit a leadoff home run in Game 1 against his former team, and Santiago Espinal homered for the second straight game Saturday to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory over the Houston Stars.

The Astros lost their fourth straight.

The game was tied at 2 with one out in the seventh inning when Espinal, who hit his first home run this season in a win Friday night, connected off Blake Taylor (0-1).

The Blue Jays lead the majors with 20 home runs after hitting four in the first two games of this series.

Alek Manoah (3-0) allowed seven hits and two runs while striking out five in six innings.

Kyle Tucker hit a leadoff single in the ninth for Houston, but Adam Cimber struck out Nico Goodrum before pinch hitter Aledmys Diaz hit an unassisted double play. Cimber got the first save from him.

Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer for Houston in the first inning, but the Astros couldn’t put much else together. Michael Brantley and Tucker each had three hits for Houston, but the last three in the order went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts.

Springer, who spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Astros, received a standing ovation from the home crowd in his first road appearance in Houston. The 2017 World Series MVP was injured when the Blue Jays came to Houston last year and missed Friday’s game after a pitch hit him in the wrist Wednesday night.

The Astros even played Travis Scott’s “Butterfly Effect,” one of Springer’s favorite songs during his time with the team, as he approached the plate for his first at-bat.

Springer then sent José Urquidy’s fifth pitch into the bullpen in right field to give Toronto an early lead. Springer smiled as he stepped out of the batter’s box and raised his right arm in triumph as the ball hit the bullpen.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back singles with one out in the inning before Alejandro Kirk walked to load the bases. But Urquidy retired Raimel Tapia to get out of the quagmire.

Brantley singled with one out in the bottom of the inning before Bregman hit his home run to the front row of seats in left field to put Houston up 2-1.

Neither team was able to make much progress offensively for the next several innings before Bo Bichette singled to lead off the sixth. Guerrero then singled on a ball that went just over Goodrum’s jump head at second base.

The Blue Jays tied it on Gurriel’s sacrifice fly that fell when Goodrum and rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena collided trying to catch it. Goodrum was shaken by the play but remained in the game after a brief visit from manager Dusty Baker and a trainer.

Urquidy allowed six hits and two runs with a walk in 5 2/3 innings.

COACHES ROOM

Blue Jays: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (forearm swelling) has increased the intensity in his throwing program and is throwing from 120 feet. … RHP Nate Pearson (mononucleosis) took live batting practice Saturday with no issues. The team will see how he recovers from work before determining their next move.

Astros: 2B Jose Altuve (injured left hamstring) grounded out on the field Saturday and later said he felt fine. Altuve, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, said he hasn’t hit since he was injured and isn’t sure of his next steps. … Closer Ryan Pressly (knee) is improving and is ready to face hitters before Sunday’s game.

golden hour

Yuli Gurriel received his Gold Glove Award and the Astros received a Gold Glove for being the best defensive team in the American League last season in a pregame ceremony. Yuli was greeted by his younger brother Lourdes, who gave him a big hug, before Yuli received the award from him.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Toronto left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 3.24 ERA) faces RHP Luis Garcia (1-0, 2.79) in the series finale on Sunday.

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