By the Numbers: Blue Jays on Opening Day
The Toronto Blue Jays look to start their fourth straight season with an Opening Day victory with a matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
Major League Baseball introduced a number of rules changes ahead of the 2023 season, including a pitch clock, a ban on infield shifts and enlarged bases; the change that flew under the radar a little bit is to team schedules.
In an unprecedented change, every team will play every other team in the majors this season, with matchups against divisional opponents being scaled back significantly.
This is evident in the Jays' first opponent this year, the Cardinals, being an interleague matchup - the first time in franchise history this has happened.
Toronto got their 2022 season off to a fast start, with a 10-8 victory over the Texas Rangers. Jose Berrios struggled, recording just one out in the seven batters he faced, before departing with a 4-0 deficit on the board. Toronto rallied with 10 runs in the final five innings.
A surprising bullpen battle erupted in their season opener in 2021 against the New York Yankees, as the 'pens exchanged 7.2 scoreless frames before Randal Grichuk's double scored a ghost runner from second base in the 10th inning, and the Jays won 3-2.
Cavan Biggio hit a three-run home run to lead the Blue Jays to a 6-4 victory to open the 2020 season against the Tampa Bay Rays. Ken Giles recorded the save with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning.
In recent memory, it's been Teoscar Hernandez providing the early spark for Toronto - he's hit .461 with two walks, five runs driven in and four runs scored. After he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Swanson trade this offseason, who could step up to lead the Jays this year?
Blue Jays hitters in season openers since 2019
|Player||Games||Batting average||Runs||RBI||Total Bases|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||3||.363||3||2||4|
|George Springer (two with HOU)||3||.090||3||3||4|
|Matt Chapman (three with OAK)||4||.176||2||5||9|
|Brandon Belt (all with SFG)||3||.250||2||2||6|
|Whit Merrifield (all with KCR)||4||.400||3||2||9|
Other players expected to appear in the starting lineup against the Cardinals are youngsters Alejandro Kirk (one opening day appearance) and Daulton Varsho (one opening day appearance), who was acquired in a December trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Alek Manoah will take the mound for the Blue Jays, where he makes his first Opening Day start for Toronto following his first full season in the majors. He finished third in Cy Young Award voting in the AL last year with a 2.24 earned runs average, with 180 strikeouts in 196.2 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays will take on Miles Mikolas for the Cardinals, a pitcher they've seen just once - last year, when they lost 7-3. Mikolas pitched 6.2 innings of three-run ball, with five strikeouts.
Toronto's hitter with the most experience against Mikolas is right fielder George Springer, who has seen Mikolas six times - he has hit .333 with a home run and four strikeouts.
The Cardinals enter this matchup on a three-game Opening Day winning streak of their own, and they've topped divisional opponents in all three. They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 in 2020, Cincinnati Reds 11-6 in 2021 and the Pirates again in 2022, 9-0.
The first pitch of their matchup will be thrown at 4:10pm ET on Thursday.