Berrios shines as Blue Jays down Mariners in home opener at newly renovated Rogers Centre

Jose Berrios threw 6 2/3 shutout innings and Davis Schneider drove in two runs as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-2 on Monday night in their home opener at Rogers Centre.

Berrios (2-0) allowed a walk, four hits and had six strikeouts as Toronto improved to 5-6 in front of a sellout crowd of 40,069.

J.P. Crawford hit a solo homer for Seattle (4-7) in the eighth inning off reliever Yimi Garcia. Cal Raleigh added a solo blast in the ninth off Blue Jays reliever Chad Green.

Toronto outhit Seattle 11-7. The Blue Jays improved to 30-18 all-time in home openers.

Blue Jays players stand during the Canadian national anthem during the home opener pre-game ceremony against the Seattle Mariners on Monday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

First pitch was about a half-hour later than normal due to a pre-game ceremony and player introductions. Berrios, who also got the Opening Day start against Tampa Bay, was in strong early form as he gave up just one single over the first four innings.

After a clean opening frame, the Blue Jays got to Mariners starter Luis Castillo (0-3) in the second.

Justin Turner reached on a double in the left-field corner and scored on Alejandro Kirk’s two-out single. Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled to the opposite corner to move Kirk to third base but they were stranded when Kevin Kiermaier struck out.

Kiermaier, who like Berrios was acknowledged before the game for Gold Glove Awards last year, flashed some of his defensive skills in the third inning. He made a nice running catch in right-centre field to deny Josh Rojas an extra-base hit.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. legged out an infield single in the bottom half of the inning and moved to third on a Bo Bichette double that just missed clearing the fence in centre field.

Turner walked to load the bases for Schneider, who floated a single that scored two runs. Toronto padded its lead in the fourth inning when Guerrero drove in Kiermaier from second base with a double.

WATCH | A glance at Blue Jays’ renovated Rogers Centre:

Take a sneak peek inside the newly-renovated Rogers Centre

The Toronto Blue Jays have unveiled the final phase of Rogers Centre renovations. The new features include reimagined 100-level seating and a new clubhouse. CBC Toronto got a sneak peek ahead of the Jays’ home opener.

Kiermaier delivered two more strong defensive plays in the fifth. He hustled into the gap to cut off a Ty France hit that forced the runner to stay at first base.

France tested Kiermaier’s arm on a single by Dominic Calzone and the veteran outfielder threw a strike to Kiner-Falefa, but the Toronto third baseman didn’t lower his glove right away for the tag and the out call was overturned on review.

Berrios struck out Rojas and got J.P. Crawford to ground out to end the threat.

Castillo was pulled after five innings. He gave up four earned runs, nine hits, a walk and had six strikeouts.

Toronto manager John Schneider heard some boos when he pulled Berrios after he gave up a two-out broken-bat single in the seventh.

It was their first appearance at Rogers Centre since the skipper’s much-criticized decision to pull the right-hander in the fourth inning of a Game 2 wild-card series loss last year in Minnesota.

The Blue Jays tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning when Kiner-Falefa sliced a single that brought home pinch-runner Daulton Varsho.

The game took two hours 33 minutes to play.

The three-game series continues Tuesday night. Chris Bassitt (0-2, 7.71 earned-run average) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays against fellow right-hander George Kirby (1-1, 5.23).

Newly renovated Rogers Centre

The new-look Rogers Centre made an excellent first impression on fans before the game.

Friends Matthew Martin, Jack Fisher and Ben Watson, all from Kitchener, Ont., were excited by the extensive renovations to Toronto’s ballpark after the gates opened on Monday before the Blue Jays hosted the Seattle Mariners. Martin said the changes, designed to make the stadium a baseball-first venue, were immediately noticeable.

“I love what they did,” said Martin, who liked how the new seats face home plate. “There’s a lot more room between the seats and the cupholders are so nice.

“I mean everything looks amazing. It’s awesome.”

The first phase of renovations were completed in the off-season between 2022 and 2023. They updated the upper bowl and outfield seating areas. Phase 2 was focused on the lower bowl, field, and players-only areas like the dugouts, clubhouses and workout rooms.

“There’s a game room, there’s float tanks, just the look of the players’ clubhouse is something different,” Schneider said. “I probably haven’t seen everything yet to be honest with you, but there’s a lot of it that really stands out.”

Photo of empty baseball stadium highlighting the recent renovations which occurred during the off-season.
Lower bowl section of the Rogers Centre following renovations ahead of Toronto Blue Jays’s home-opener on April 8. (Photo by Toronto Blue Jays)

Bichette said the renovations will offer a small competitive advantage, at least when it comes to staying warm during longer innings.

“Moving the batting cages so close to the dugout makes it pretty easy,” he said.

How the new field’s dimensions impact the actual game is still unknown.

Traditionally a hitter-friendly stadium, fewer home runs were hit at Rogers Centre last season despite the higher outfield walls being moved closer to home plate. The second phase of renovations shrunk the foul areas, giving catchers and corner infielders less space to catch foul balls.

It also created higher retaining walls in left and right field, meaning outfielders will no longer be able to lean into the stands to catch deep fouls.

“There’s more space taken out than you realize, but I guess we’ll see,” said Schneider. “I guess objectively, yeah, probably you’re going to lose some outs that were caught last year. We’ll see how it plays.”

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