HOUSTON – The Toronto Blue Jays had a lot of fun in Baltimore. They piled up some hits and runs against the Orioles, won a series and then watched the final quarter of Game 6 in the NBA Finals as the Toronto Raptors claimed their first-ever championship.
Players cheered every basket, groaned at each miss and a group of them whooped and hollered in the middle of the visitors’ clubhouse at Camden Yards once time expired on a historic 114-110 victory.
“It was awesome,” said Randal Grichuk. “Any time a team in the city you’re playing in wins a championship it’s pretty special. You’re a part of that city and it’s really cool. Beating the Warriors makes it a little bit more special. Getting Rowdy (Tellez, a Warriors fan) to shut up is a little more special – doesn’t happen often so that was good. I just wish we could have been there to see the celebrations in the city and see the fans yelling and cheering them on. It inspires me. Hopefully in the near future they can be out there supporting us.”
Nights like Friday’s 15-2 beatdown from the Houston Astros sure made the thought of similar celebratory revelling in the Blue Jays’ honour seem like a distant dream.
The best thing to happen for them all night? An X-Ray that revealed no fracture in the left hand of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was struck by a 96.3 m.p.h. fastball from Gerrit Cole in the first inning. He was diagnosed with a contusion.
“That’s scary,” manager Charlie Montoyo said of players being hit in the hand. “He’ll be day-to-day, so we’ll see how he feels (Saturday).”
The Blue Jays proceeded to load the bases in that first inning with two outs, but Cole blew a 99.6 m.p.h. heater past Grichuk to end the threat. That proved costly in the bottom half as Aaron Sanchez walked the first two batters he faced on a total of 10 pitches, bounced back to strike out Yuli Gurriel – older brother of Blue Jays left-fielder Lourdes Jr. – before a Yordan Alvarez single loaded the bases. A seeing-eye grounder to right field by Robinson Chirinos cashed in a pair and a Josh Reddick fly ball to deep left brought home a third run.
Sanchez was in more trouble in the second when Tony Kemp singled and stole second, Jake Marisnick walked and Alex Bregman brought them home with a homer to left, while in the third, he served up a two-run homer to Kemp that shouldn’t have been.
Reddick, who had singled earlier in the inning, stole second and beat the throw, but appeared to come off the bag with Cavan Biggio’s glove still on him. The Blue Jays didn’t challenge what might have been the final out and moments later Kemp’s shot made it 10-0 Astros.
“The bench coach calls our video guy and he says yes or no, and he said no (to a challenge),” explained Montoyo. “That’s why we didn’t ask for it.”
Sanchez only made it through three innings, matching his shortest outing of the season accomplished twice previously, when he had blister issues. He said that wasn’t the case this time around.
“Starting pitcher sets the tone and we walked the first two batters … for me it was just kind of stick with it, it will come, it will come,” said Sanchez. “There’s game like that where I start early, don’t really have it, and then I end up going five or six. Just one of those days I didn’t have it. …
“You’ve got to establish fastball command and when it’s kind of all over the place like it was, it doesn’t give you a chance to get to your secondary stuff. That’s how it was.”
CRAZY FOR CAVAN
Given that he grew up in the public eye during his father’s Hall of Fame career and even served as a bat-boy for the Astros at one point, it should come as no surprise that Houston fans cheered Cavan Biggio each time he stepped up to the plate.
They even cheered him after a two-run double off the centre-field wall cashed in a pair of Blue Jays runs in the fifth inning, although the game was well in hand at that point, cutting the Houston lead to 10-2.
“I’m just glad Tal’s Hill isn’t there anymore, otherwise (Jake) Marisnick probably catches it,” quipped Biggio. “It was pretty cool. Had a bunch of friends and family here and (the ovation) goes to show the amount of respect the name Biggio holds in this stadium. It’s cool for me but it’s an even better tribute to my father and what he did.”
Earlier in the day, during a joint media conference, Biggio and dad Craig, now a special assistant to the general manager for the Astros, reminisced about times past, and reuniting on opposing teams now.
Asked about what he drew from his son’s first days in the big-leagues in relation to his own experience, Craig replied: “Really just watching him play, the similarities of my first weeks and his first weeks is that you try to have a short-term memory. If it’s a good game, you want to remember it a little bit better, if you have a bad game, you want to forget about as quickly as you can, learn from the mistakes you made and understand that you’re going to have to continue to make adjustments in the big-leagues. Because pitchers are going to make adjustments as you go along. That’s part of the process in playing up here and it’s really fun to watch the beginning of the journey for him and he’s been pretty successful at making adjustments when he has to.”
Cavan said his dad rarely gave him advice, but one key piece of knowledge came while he was in high school, reminding him to not put too much pressure on himself.
“I was going through a time where I was trying to hit a home run every at-bat and, if I didn’t hit a home run, I felt like we were going to lose. He was like, ‘You know, you don’t have to hit a home run every at-bat?’ I was like, ‘Nooo,’” he recalled. “When you get up here, it’s so different. You want to do well, you want to get a couple hits a game, you want to prove to yourself that you can play in this league and help this team win. The past week or so if I wasn’t getting a hit but I’m getting on base and having good at-bats, I started finding myself thinking, I just need to get a hit, I want to prove that I’m able to hit here. Going into the off-day, going into Baltimore, I was just like, stop putting so much pressure on yourself, go out there and have fun and play the game I love.”
Reliever David Phelps joined the Blue Jays from his rehab assignment but wasn’t activated after back-to-back outings at triple-A Buffalo. Once fresh, he’ll join the bullpen, with Montoyo saying he’ll start the right-hander in lower leverage spots at first and then slowly move him back in the ‘pen. … Nick Kingham reported to the team Friday and ended up throwing a bullpen post-game. He could potentially be activated Saturday, likely in a relief role, although that’s not carved in stone. The right-hander was acquired Thursday from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash.
Former manager John Gibbons popped by Minute Maid Park to visit his former team and a steady stream of Blue Jays made a bee-line to visit him in the stands during batting practice. … Bo Bichette hit a leadoff homer in his second game for triple-A Buffalo since returning from a broken hand. He finished 2-for-4 after going 1-for-6 on Thursday and once he gets going, the countdown will be on for his promotion to the big-leagues. … Jordan Groshans, the club’s first-round pick last year, is going to miss an extended period of time due to a stress reaction in his foot. The Blue Jays had initially hoped the issue would be minor but now must be careful to not worsen the injury.
“Just excitement, man, excitement for the country of Canada, Toronto. Being in the city since 2014, I’ve felt the energy around the Raps, around the Leafs, around our team in the playoffs, I understand the craving Toronto and Canada was having for a championship. To see the Raptors being it home, you saw the pandemonium in the streets. Wish I could have been home to see that. It’s awesome to see. Shout out to all those guys. Our (fan reaction during the playoff runs of 2015-’16) was crazy. But from the videos I’ve been seeing, it’s insane, it’s insane. I’m excited for the parade, hopefully be able to see some of that. It’s greatness, it’s history, just glad to witness it all.” – Marcus Stroman on the Raptors winning the NBA Finals.