Davis Schneider plays late-game hero in Blue Jays’ comeback win over Astros

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HOUSTON — The Toronto Blue Jays were down to their final out on a night their offence had trouble generating anything against Houston Astros starter Framber Valdez when Davis Schneider walked to the plate.

Schneider was facing Josh Hader, the star closer the Astros signed for five years and $95 million over the offseason, for the first time. But as he showed last season, the man they call Babe Schneider isn’t fazed by the moment.

So when Hader hung a juicy 87-mph slider, Schneider pounced on it, sending it over the centre field wall for a two-run home run — his second of the season and one that turned Toronto’s 1-0 deficit into an eventual 2-1 win in an instant on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

“I was kind of looking fastball out and away, and he threw that slider and it was kind of the one that just spun there, didn’t really break,” said Schneider, who initially didn’t realize it was a home run because it bounced off the wall and back onto the field. “This was my first time playing in this park so I kind of really didn’t know what was going on a little bit and then I saw the umpire make the home run signal.”

Schneider’s heroics followed a crucial walk from designated hitter Justin Turner, who had a three-hit night. The home run provided a much-needed boost to a Blue Jays team that had been no-hit Monday night by Astros starter Ronel Blanco and, through the first eight innings on Tuesday, wasn’t able to generate much off Valdez and Ryan Pressly, despite some competitive at-bats.

“It was just a great swing on a pitch that he can handle,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said of Davis Schneider’s home run.

It was only the 10th home run of Schneider’s still-young career, yet it feels like so many of them have been impactful, dating back to No. 1 that came in his first career at-bat at Fenway Park last August. Only 25 years old, and 38 games into his major-league career, the ever-calm Schneider seems built for big moments.

How is that so?

“I think it’s just the preparation that we go through with our hitting coaches and the whole staff. That was my first time ever facing Josh Hader,” said Schneider. “He has a really good track record and a really good closer, but just one of the things where you have to try to keep calm and if you try to overdo things, that’s where bad things are going to happen. And, I’m glad that I caught my nerves a little bit.”

The comeback win was appreciated and lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-3 record. But by Tuesday, the club was feeling no ill effects from being no-hit a night earlier.

“You play every day, you really got to just turn the page and focus on Valdez and how we’re going to try to beat him and what we’re trying to do with José (Berríos) on the mound,” John Schneider said before the game. “These guys have been around enough. I think J.T. said this is the second time he’s been no hit here. DeMarlo (Hale) said, I think it was with Cleveland, they got no-hit four times and made the playoffs.

“It happens. Stars were aligned for them yesterday. Odds are they’re not going to go 0-162, they’re a really good team. So first win, no-hitter, first win for Joe (Espada). It was kind of their night, so you chalk it up to that and move on.”

Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, who returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing the last two games with neck spasms, knocked a single into right field in the first inning so history would not be repeated. Through eight innings, however, it looked like a Blue Jays’ game from 2023 was unfolding when stellar pitching and defensive performances would be undercut by the lineup’s inability to generate enough offence.

Blue Jays starter Berríos allowed just one run on six hits over six innings with three walks and two strikeouts. The only real mistake the right-hander made was surrendering a solo home run to Astros second baseman José Altuve, who launched a high fastball into left field in the fourth inning for his second home run of the season.

“Tonight was a night I didn’t have my best stuff but I was still able to go there and compete. I held the game right there, just one nothing,” Berríos said.

“He was locating,” John Schneider said. “He was trying to get glove-side a little bit with his heater and didn’t really have it so I think his sinker into their right-handers really set up his breaking ball and he made a good in-game adjustment. I think that he’s got a lot of confidence right now, which is a good thing, too. And he’s really showing why he’s one of the better pitchers in the league.”

After Berríos left in the seventh inning with two on base, Yimi García entered the game and retired the next three batters he faced. After Garcia allowed a double to Altuve in the eighth, Tim Mayza and Chad Green came in after to combine for a scoreless frame with the last out coming when catcher Alejandro Kirk picked off Altuve, who looked to stray too far from third base.

After Bichette hit into a double play in the ninth, Turner worked a five-pitch walk off Hader. That set up the moment for Davis Schneider, who didn’t miss his opportunity to play late-game hero, much to the appreciation of his teammates.

“When I saw Turner walk, and I saw Schneider come (to the plate), I said ‘Schneid can do something special,’” Berríos said. “And he did. He got a hanging breaking ball and did what he can do with those middle-down or down-and-in pitches, he kills those pitches and tonight was the night he got that pitch and crushed it.”

(Photo: Troy Taormina / USA Today)

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