The Toronto Blue Jays should feel good about the way they played during a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. They put up runs, pitched well in spots, rallied from deficits and generally did what was needed to win. So, full credit.
Significant progress, however, will come once sweeping clubs like AL East cellar dwellers moves from achievement to expectation. Good teams are supposed to take advantage of rebuilding bottom-feeders the way Tampa Bay Rays have in going 12-7 against the Orioles this year, the Boston Red Sox 11-5 and, in an extreme example, the New York Yankees nearly running the table at 17-2.
Up until this series, the Blue Jays hadn’t done that at all. In fact, they arrived in Baltimore 6-7 against the Orioles, splitting a four-game set during their last meeting, Aug. 1-4 at Camden. When facing the Blue Jays, the Orioles saw an opportunity series, which isn’t good.
Now, the Blue Jays’ mark is up to 9-7 after completing just their fourth series sweep of the year with Thursday night’s 8-4 victory.
For a while, the finale was a pitching duel, Gabriel Ynoa and Anthony Kay, behind opener Wilmer Font, keeping things at 2-2 through six. But as you probably noticed, the Orioles bullpen is a black hole of hope, and so the Blue Jays piled up a six-spot in the seventh and rode that to victory.
Randal Grichuk started the rally with a double that ran his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games and ended Ynoa’s night. Lefty Tanner Scott came on to face a string of lefties but walked Reese McGuire and Rowdy Tellez on nine pitches. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was so disgusted that he brought in a righty, Dillon Tate, to face a lefty, Derek Fisher. No matter, he walked as well to bring in the go-ahead run.
Tate rallied to strike out Bo Bichette but then Cavan Biggio dropped a two-run single, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., followed with an RBI single and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one pitch after a foul ball bounced off the ground into the side of his face, ripped a two-run double on a one-handed swing.
At 62-91, the Blue Jays are down to their final nine games of the season, beginning with a three-game set Friday night against the Yankees in the Bronx. After that comes a six-game homestand starting with three more versus the Orioles before three with the Rays.
The Blue Jays now need just one more win to avoid the first 100-loss season since the early expansion days of 1979, the only magic number in their sights at the moment.
The Blue Jays extended a franchise record by hitting back-to-back homers for the 13th time this season, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., doing the honours in the fourth inning.
Biggio, who pummelled the Orioles in this series, got things started by lifting a Gabriel Ynoa sinker that was middle down over the wall in left-centre. Two pitches later, Gurriel turned on a slider up on the inner edge and hammered it over the wall in left field.
The Blue Jays went back-to-back 11 times in 1999 and 10 times in each of 1983, 2006 and 2010.
Gurriel’s homer gave him 20 on the season, the fourth Blue Jays player to reach the plateau.
The Blue Jays very nearly went back-to-back-to-back in that fourth inning when Vladimir Guerrero Jr., drilled a 94.1 m.p.h. Ynoa fastball to straight-away centre, but Orioles outfielder Austin Hays had other plans.
Nice bit of sportsmanship there by Guerrero with the cap tip. He looked no worse for the wear Thursday after a left rib issue forced him out of Wednesday’s comeback 11-10 win.
The Blue Jays haven’t gone back-to-back-to-back since Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion each went deep off Tyler Thornburg in the sixth inning of a 10-9 win at Milwaukee on June 19, 2012. Rasmus and Bautista also went back-to-back off John Axford in the ninth inning of that contest.
The man knows the zone
Biggio doesn’t chirp umpires very often, but when home-plate umpire Dan Bellino called a sketchy third strike on him in the sixth inning, well, let’s just say he was justified in complaining.
The call, on a 3-2 pitch, was significant, as rather than having the bases loaded and none out for Gurriel and Guerrero, the Blue Jays had runners on first and second with one out, and the pressure eased on Ynoa.
To his credit, Bellino allowed Biggio to have his say without engaging, as he should have, because the call was a rather egregious miss.
Bo Bichette got really lucky in the sixth inning when an errant 92.9 m.p.h. sinker from Ynoa sailed up and in, and struck the bill of his helmet before glancing off his right hand, dropping the rookie shortstop to the ground.
Bichette popped up shortly after where he was greeted by manager Charlie Montoyo and trainer Nikki Huffman, who checked to make sure he was fine. He was, staying in the game until the bottom of the seventh, when he was removed for precautionary concussion testing.
Richard Urena replaced him defensively.