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Blue Jays top Tigers in home opener at renovated Rogers Centre

Kevin Kiermaier has been talking about making highlight-reel plays over the new outfield walls at Rogers Centre since the Blue Jays signed him as a free agent in December.

It took just two innings for Kiermaier to deliver on that promise in Toronto’s home opener.

Kiermaier snatched a potential home run from over the fence then hit a homer of his own to help the Blue Jays to a 9-3 triumph over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

It was the first game played at Rogers Centre since it underwent major renovations, including moving the outfield walls in closer to home plate and lowering them in some places.

“Baseball works in mysterious ways sometimes and tonight, my second inning out there, I make that catch,” said Kiermaier, who earned three Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove over nine season with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing a one-year, $9 million US deal with Toronto in the off-season.

“It was such a rush, such a thrill. It’s one I’ll go back and watch probably 10 times tonight.”

His Blue Jays teammates were also wowed.

“We were kind of laughing in the dugout,” said manager John Schneider. “It’s right out of the chute and he’s jumped over the wall.”

George Springer hit his second home run of the season before Kiermaier was done celebrating his fifth-inning dinger. Kiermaier stated he didn’t mind Springer immediately overshadowing his first home run of the season, however.

“So great, I’ll take that any time,” said Kiermaier. “The more the better.”

Alejandro Kirk had a three-run homer and an RBI single for the Blue Jays (7-4), who started the season on a 10-game road trip due to renovations at Rogers Centre.

Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette added their own solo shots for Toronto before Brandon Belt drove in a run with a base hit.

Starting pitcher Alek Manoah earned a no decision, giving up three runs on four hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings, striking out three. Zach Pop (1-0) of Brampton, Ont., Erik Swanson, Yimi Garcia and Anthony Bass combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

“Wish I could have done a little bit better and been in there a little bit longer and helped our bullpen out a little bit,” said Manoah. “But it’s a great team win and that gives us great momentum and gives the crowd something to be excited about.”

Nick Maton’s three-run homer in the second inning gave Detroit (2-8) an early lead but the Tigers still stumbled to their fifth consecutive loss.

Matt Manning (1-1) permitted four runs on six hits and a walk, striking out three, over six innings of work before a Kirk comebacker broke his foot. Mason Englert gave up five runs in relief.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins acquired Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho in the off-season, moving Springer to right in a new defence-first outfield. Those changes were made to create a more well-rounded lineup and presumably to anticipate the challenges presented by the new, quirkier Rogers Centre outfield.

“I think if you’re not evolving and changing and trying to get better than someone else is,” said Atkins hours before the game. “[The renovations are] another example of us trying to push things forward not only for the team and for our players and their families, but the fans.

“This is a city and a fan base that deserves us pushing to be the best we can be in every way.”

Steve Carr

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