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Horwitz, Springer homer as Blue Jays hold on to beat Astros

Spencer Horwitz Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays Spencer Horwitz and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Spencer Horwitz loves the chess match of an at bat, especially doing it at the highest level of professional baseball.

Horwitz had a solo shot and George Springer followed that with a three-run homer as the Toronto Blue Jays held on for a 7-6 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday. Horwitz is hitting .306 through 21 games with the Blue Jays after being called up from triple-A Buffalo on June 6.

As MLB pitchers have gotten to know his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter he's had to make small tweaks to stay competitive each time he comes to the plate.

"That's the enjoyment and the competitiveness that makes this game so great and that I enjoy so much," said Horwitz. "The highs and lows, the in-betweens, it's all part of it."

Horwitz hit .256 with a home run and seven runs batted in over 15 games with Toronto in 2023. He started this season in Buffalo, where he hit .335 with a .456 on-base percentage in 57 games. He had four home runs, 38 RBIs and a triple-A best 22 doubles at the time of his call-up to the bigs.

In his brief time in the majors he's learned that the work is never going to stop.

"You always think about 'I want to get to the big leagues. I want to get to the big leagues,' and I got a taste of it last year," said Horwitz. "I had that feeling again in Buffalo this year that 'I want to get back to the big leagues, I want to get back to the big leagues.'

"But not much changes (in the majors) besides the third deck and the stuffs a little harder and a little sharper."

Justin Turner drove in a run with a single in the first inning and Addison Barger doubled home another in the fourth for Toronto (39-46).

Jose Berrios (8-6) went five innings, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks, striking out just one. Nate Pearson, Trevor Richards and Chad Green came out of the bullpen to preserve the win, although Richards gave up an unearned run.

"We won because they held the game right there," said Berrios of Toronto's relievers. "Tonight was a team win."

Yordan Alvarez had a three-run homer to cap a five-run fifth for Houston (43-42). Cesar Salazar and Jose Altuve had RBI singles as part of that rally.

Spencer Arrighetti (4-7) gave up seven runs — six earned — on six hits and four walks over four innings. He struck out five. Relievers Luis Contreras and Seth Martinez combined for four scoreless innings.

Turner opened the scoring in the first when his flyball dropped in for a single. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., scored from second after walking and advancing a base on Arrighetti's wild pitch.

Horwitz added to that lead in the third inning when he launched a 95.2 m.p.h. four-seam fastball from Arrighetti 377 feet into the deck above right field.

Guerrero followed Horwitz to the plate and hit a long double to centre field. Turner then drew a walk to get another Blue Jays runner on the bases.

That brought Springer up. He made no mistake on Arrighetti's 94.5 m.p.h. four-seamer. Springer's ninth homer of the season gave Toronto a commanding 5-0 lead.

The Blue Jays' momentum carried into the fourth inning as Barger doubled off the wall in centre field to score Ernie Clement and move Alejandro Kirk to third. Kirk then ran home on a passed ball for a sizable 7-0 Blue Jays advantage.

Houston took a substantial chunk out of that lead in the next inning.

Salazar and Altuve hit back-to-back RBI singles to score Jon Singleton and Jeremy Pena, respectively. Alvarez then caught an 83.3 m.p.h. change-up from Berrios just inside the strike zone, to make it 7-5.

"He's a smart hitter, a great hitter," said Berrios of Alvarez. "He was thinking more ahead than me and he beat me."

A pair of errors in the eighth cut Toronto's lead down to a run. Alvarez led off the inning with a hit to Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, who threw the ball way over Guerrero's head at first. That allowed Alvarez to get to second. He then advanced to third when Richards' pickoff attempt went into the outfield.

Jake Meyers then grounded out, with Alvarez easily running home on the play to make it 7-6.

IL-KF — The Blue Jays placed infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the 10-day injured list before the game with a left knee sprain. The move was retroactive to Monday after Kiner-Falefa hurt himself warming up. Middle infielder Leo Jimenez was recalled from triple-A Buffalo for his first-ever Major League Baseball game in a corresponding move.

ON DECK — Yusei Kikuchi (4-8) will take the mound as the Blue Jays continue their four-game series with the Astros.

Ronel Blanco (8-3) is scheduled to start for Houston.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2024.