Grichuk continues to sizzle as two-homer day helps Blue Jays sweep Orioles — Toronto Sun

The evolution and timeline of Randal Grichuk’s rise from overpaid and inconsistent hitter to top of the order force in the Blue Jays offence has been beyond impressive. Grichuk was at it again in a Camden Yards matinee on Wednesday, hitting a pair of home runs to lead the Jays to a 5-2 win and […]

Grichuk continues to sizzle as two-homer day helps Blue Jays sweep Orioles — Toronto Sun

The evolution and timeline of Randal Grichuk’s rise from overpaid and inconsistent hitter to top of the order force in the Blue Jays offence has been beyond impressive.

Grichuk was at it again in a Camden Yards matinee on Wednesday, hitting a pair of home runs to lead the Jays to a 5-2 win and three-game series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles.

In that trio of games, Grichuk had no less than 11 RBI on four home runs. With power to all parts of the field, Grichuk is now second on the team in homers with six, all of them coming in his past six games.

It has been an incredible and welcome run for the Jays, who are now riding a season-best three-game winning streak as they return to Buffalo for a Thursday doubleheader with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Moving up in manager Charlie Montoyo’s batting order after shortstop Bo Bichette was lost for a month, Grichuk has clearly been on fire of late. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The evolution in Grichuk’s offensive game began after the 2019 season in which he led the team with 31 home runs but struggled with consistency at the plate and an ice-cold start. That prompted the Jays highest-paid position player to admit he needed to get improve.

A productive off-season working on his approach took another leap forward at spring training when Grichuk tapped into the sound advice of guest instructor Dante Bichette. With a modified and more disciplined approach at the plate, Grichuk had success in Grapefruit League play, but took some time to fire it up after the COVID-19 shutdown.

Not anymore, it would seem.

“He just looks on time with everything,” said Jays infielder Brandon Drury on a post-game Zoom. “He’s not chasing a lot out of the zone. I feel like he is really sticking to his plan, whatever it is that at bat. He’s on every pitch, whether it’s soft or it’s hard and he’s looking for something and he’s not missing it.”

Far more comfortable at the plate than at any point in his four seasons with the Jays, Grichuk is chasing fewer bad pitches while hitting balls to all parts of all parks that he plays. His two homers on Wednesday — including the two-run shot in the sixth — were well struck and hit in the air, the latter a point of emphasis for Grichuk during spring training.

“He’s driving the ball to all parts of the park,” Drury agreed after watching his teammate hit a solo shot in the second and two-run effort in the sixth. “Hanging breaking balls and changeups he’s hitting to left and fastballs he’s hitting out to centre or right centre. It’s been impressive to watch, that’s for sure.”

Though he had started to heat up in Buffalo, Grichuk’s output at Camden Yards was one of the best over a three-game series in club history. The 11 RBI were the second most in a three-gamer, trailing only the 13 Josh Phelps blasted against Seattle back in 2004.

“His approach was very good in spring training and in summer camp and he’s kept it going,” Montoyo said. “We needed someone to pick up the slack when Bo (Bichette) got hurt and he’s done that.”

The runs weren’t coming at such a prolific pace on Wednesday but as the Jays improved to 10-11 it has been the offence that has carried them. In their past eight games, the Jays have banged out 23 home runs after hitting 15 in their previous 13.

And Grichuk was front and centre, providing his team’s first three RBI and nearly adding more.

“I’m hitting the ball in the air but I’m still driving it,” Grichuk said recently. “Things are working. What I’m working on is heading in the right direction so I’ll try to keep doing that.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/q4lJqB7Ogo8?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1

ROARK TO THE RESCUE?

Prior to Wednesday’s contest, Montoyo was understandably concerned about his bullpen. Not only had the relievers been pushed hard the previous night, the doubleheader in Buffalo was looming.

Montoyo’s hope, then, was that starter Tanner Roark could give him six solid innings. When the Jays acquired the veteran right-hander during the off season, one of the attractions was his ability to eat innings, something that Roark has struggled to do so far this season.

While far from dominating on Wednesday, Roark came close to his manager’s wishes, going five not-always-pretty innings. He allowed just two earned runs on 94 pitches but had to work his way out of a number of jams after allowing nine hits.

“The more I get in synch and the more I get to face hitters, the more consistent I am,” Roark said post-game. “The more I’m attacking hitters – that’s what makes me, me.”

But Roark dug in to leave with a lead handing the ball to Ryan Borucki (1.1 innings), Thomas Hatch (1.2 innings) and finally Rafael Dolis to close it out. Dolis did allow a pair of runners but kept the Orioles off the board to protect the win and earn the save.

TROUBLE WITH TEOSCAR

Beyond the Grichuk home-run trots, a fuming Teoscar Hernandez in the Blue Jays dugout after the fifth inning was the most prominent image coming out of Baltimore.

After his latest outfield follies in the fourth inning, Hernandez was seen fuming in the Jays dugout. An error as he completely misplayed a rolling ball in right field led to the Orioles first run of the game and erased an early Jays lead.

To his credit, Hernandez rebounded with a strike to home place after a Cedric Mullins single, gunning down Pat Valaika for the final out of the inning. That solid play aside, the Hernandez miscues continue to be problematic for Montoyo and the Jays and a stark defensive liability.

And who knows when it may start to affect him offensively? Hernandez was a hapless 0-for-5 on Wednesday.

Joe Harris leaves bubble for ‘non-medical personal matter’ — Nets Wire

The Brooklyn Nets could be without Joe Harris for a stretch of time now that he’s left the Disney bubble.

Joe Harris leaves bubble for ‘non-medical personal matter’ — Nets Wire

The Brooklyn Nets announced on Wednesday after their Game 2 loss to the Toronto Raptors that Joe Harris has left the NBA Campus in Orlando, Florida.

Brooklyn’s sharpshooter left due to a “non-medical personal matter.” With the announcement, the Nets added, “The status of his return will be updated as information becomes available.”

With Harris now outside of the bubble, the Nets could be without the guard beyond Game 3, which is set to take place on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Harris is the first Nets player to leave the Disney bubble since the team arrived in Florida in July. (Michael Beasley had signed with the Nets when he went home before the NBA restart, but he had not joined the team in the Disney bubble at that time.)

The Raptors lead the series with the Nets 2-0

Nets: Joe Harris leaves bubble for personal matter — nyob.news

Joe Harris scored 14 points, grabbed 15 rebounds then left the bubble. Harris departed after the Nets’ Game 2 loss to the Raptors today. Nets: Joe Harris has left the NBA Campus in Orlando due to a non-medical personal matter. The status of his return will …

Nets: Joe Harris leaves bubble for personal matter — nyob.news

Nets don’t make it easy but Raps off to a 2-0 start in playoffs — Toronto Sun

Anyone worried the Raptors might not get the necessary challenge from an undermanned Nets team in this first round need no longer worry. Read More

Nets don’t make it easy but Raps off to a 2-0 start in playoffs — Toronto Sun

Jacque Vaughn addresses Garrett Temple’s frustration with final play of Game 2 — Nets Wire

Even after they lost control in the fourth quarter, the Brooklyn Nets had a chance to force overtime in Game 2.

Jacque Vaughn addresses Garrett Temple’s frustration with final play of Game 2 — Nets Wire

The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to walk out of Wednesday with their first-round series against the reigning NBA champs tied at 1-1. Even after they let the Toronto Raptors take control in the fourth quarter, the Nets had the ball in their hands during what should’ve been the final possession of regulation.

But things got away and Brooklyn wound up losing 104-99.https://widgets.thescore.com/embeds/76b51e6d-83fc-40c5-801c-f21c0cd2c062/B3048BFF2122363045F286D30C5D4F30

After the loss, Brooklyn Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn broke down the final possession with reporters over Zoom:

We got the ball in the hands of our shoot. Good defense by Kyle Lowry. The ball was intended for Joe. it got to Joe.

Jacque Vaughn walks us through the @BrooklynNets final offensive possession: pic.twitter.com/FcMhRnEq94

— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 19, 2020

The “good defense” by Lowry that Vaughn mentioned forced Harris and Garrett to lose control of the ball as the former tried to hand it off to the latter, leading to the turnover.

Garrett Temple on what could’ve been done differently on the key turnover: “The thing that was done differently is we complete the handoff. That’s all there is to it. I take blame. I’m sure Joe would say the same. It takes two.” #Nets #Raptors

— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) August 19, 2020

Temple was frustrated with the way things broke down after Lowry scored. Given how the Brooklyn wing typically approaches things, Vaughn thinks there may have been something to the complaint, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Garrett is a respectable young man. If he feels he got fouled, we’ll have to take a look at it.

Indians’ Francona to have surgical procedure, miss series — MLB | NBC Sports

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is missing his team’s three-game series against the Pirates.

Indians’ Francona to have surgical procedure, miss series — MLB | NBC Sports

PITTSBURGH — Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona will miss his team’s three-game series with the Pirates, which begins Tuesday night.

General manager Mike Chernoff said Francona will have a “scheduled procedure” to address a gastrointestinal issue. Francona also sat out seven games from Aug. 3-9 because of the ailment.

The Indians are hopeful Francona will be back in the dugout Friday night in Cleveland for the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers.

First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will again manage the club in Francona’s absence.

Meanwhile, Gold Glove catcher Roberto Perez has been activated from the injured list and backup catcher Sandy Leon has been placed on family emergency leave.

Perez had been out since July 29 with a strained right shoulder. He was is in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates.

Perez has played in just three games during this pandemic-shortened season, going 1 for 10.

“We’re excited to have him back,” Chernoff said. “I’m sure our pitchers are happy to have him back, too.”

Perez won the AL Gold Glove last year. He led all major leaguers with 30 defensive runs saved while batting .239 with 24 home runs in 119 games.

Leon will miss the series with the Pirates.

Cleveland also recalled outfielder Greg Allen from its alternate training site. That came a day after outfielder Oscar Mercado was assigned to the camp in Eastlake, Ohio on Monday.

Mercado hit .111 in 17 games and lost his starting center fielder’s job to Delino DeShields Jr.

Morning Wrap: Are the Lakers in trouble after Game 1 loss? Dodgers win seventh straight — Daily News

The Morning Wrap shares the day’s top five stories from our reporters at the Southern California Newspaper Group. … Sign up to have our top sports stories delivered to your inbox with our daily newsletters ONE: The Trail Blazers continued to be one of the hottest teams in the Orlando bubble, shocking the Lakers in…

Morning Wrap: Are the Lakers in trouble after Game 1 loss? Dodgers win seventh straight — Daily News

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle — Toronto Sun

Fred VanVleet had one of those nights where it really didn’t matter where he was shooting from, the ball was almost assuredly going in. Read More

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle — Toronto Sun

Fred VanVleet had one of those nights where it really didn’t matter where he was shooting from, the ball was almost assuredly going in.

He went a ridiculous 11-for-15 from the field including 8-of-10 from behind the arc on Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle

And we aren’t just talking about about your run-of-the-mill three-pointers either.

Only one of VanVleet’s eight makes from behind the arc came with his toes approaching the actual three-point line. At its furthest the three-point line is 23.75 feet from the basket. VanVleet’s final three of the night came from 23 feet. The other seven ranged from 25 feet all the way out to 31 feet, his second make of the night from deep.

VanVleet has always had the three-ball as part of his arsenal but extending it well behind that line has taken his game to another level.

The move came at the suggestion of head coach Nick Nurse who had seen just what Kyle Lowry’s expanded range had done for his game and was noticing that VanVleet was having some issues getting his three-ball off.

“It probably came a little bit out of necessity,” Nurse admitted. “He was not getting shots off, he was getting a few blocked and we needed him. We needed his spacing and his three point shooting so we just decided, well, if he backed up maybe five feet, maybe they wouldn’t be able to get to him as quick and he went to work on it.”

The bulk of that work took place last season during VanVleet’s recovery from a thumb injury but he’s been working at it ever since.

“Give him credit, he really started working on it, working on it and I think it just continues to grow from there,” Nurse said. “His range just keeps getting farther and farther out which is good. Again it’s just again more spacing and it’s hard to guard if a guy can shoot it at a really high clip eight feet behind the line. It’s really hard to guard.”

VanVleet is at the point where he no longer looks for the line. He’s comfortable anywhere from 24 to 27 feet and after that his success rate might not be as high (he doesn’t know the actual numbers) but he’s still comfortable taking just about any open shot that presents itself.

“If I feel like I’m open, I’m not really worried about the line and where I’m at, I’m just trying to get one up,” he said.

Having that tandem of Lowry and VanVleet out there ready to bomb from just about anywhere opens up all kinds of space for driving lanes for themselves and the likes of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby and his improved handle.

Throw in the fact that all three frontcourt players are also capable fo stepping outside and hitting from deep and you have the perfect Nick Nurse team.

“Really, it’s all about spacing,” Nurse said. “That’s the other thing I always say, offence is about creating space and that sure helps when you’ve got everyone out there who can shoot in space (and) from three.”

The Nets meanwhile are content to let the Raptors bomb away as they retreat and protect the paint with numbers.

VanVleet was asked if his intent when he starts bombing away from distance is to lure those Nets defenders further out and open up some of that space. On paper that makes a ton of sense, but VanVleet laughed the question off.

“I want them to stay like that the whole time,” he said of the Nets dropped defence. “I’m the one getting the open shots. When they come up I’m going to have to probably start creating and passing it out. You just try to be ready for anything. I work on every coverage and I got an answer for everything offensively I feel like.”

It certainly looked that way in Game 1.

LEAVE PASCAL ALONE

Norm Powell took his turn fielding the question about Pascal Siakam and whether he was pressing or not. Like VanVleet a night earlier, Powell leapt to his teammates defence. “I see Pascal playing his game,” Powell said. “You know, I see he’s still taking the shots that he was accustomed to taking in the regular season before the hiatus. I see he’s playing his game. He knows he’s going to get his opportunities, his shots, his chances, and he’s making the most of them. Sometimes, some of the other shots he’s taking are the same shots he has made, and a bad bounce, whatever it is, but we need him to stay aggressive, stay confident, and continue taking those shots because he’s our go-to player, and he’s the No. 1 option. I don’t think he’s going to stop or deter from trying to make an impact, trying to make a play, and take those shots he’s been taking.”

DOWN ANOTHER BODY

The league expanded rosters to 17 for the re-start to off-set the conditioning lost over a 41/2-month hiatus. It won’t be of any benefit to the Raptors, who are down to 15 bodies with first Pat McCaw leaving the bubble for treatment and now Mississauga native Oshae Brissett having to leave for surgery on his right knee to clean up some loose bodies. Brissett will return to Toronto and have the surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital.

PLAYOFF KYLE VS REG. SEASON KYLE

Kyle Lowry may have been a little overshadowed by his backcourt mate VanVleet in Game 1 but make no mistake Lowry remains the driving force behind this team. Norm Powell who is in his fifth year with Lowry said the face of the franchise takes on a little more serious look once the playoffs arrive. “I think leading in practices and things like that,” Powell said where he really notices a difference with Lowry. “He’s very focused and locked in, he’s a lot more vocal in what we’re doing and talking to the guys, making sure they know what the coverages are and what the schemes are what we’re trying to go out there and do during the games. He’s very vocal in that sense, being locked in and he’s talking to us to make sure that we know everything and that we’re locked in and we’re together in this playoff run. I mean off the court away from that he’s still relaxed and having fun and enjoying the process, but once it’s time to lock in and lace ‘em up, he’s focused.”

FINALLY MEANINGFUL GAMES

If you felt like the Raptors were a little more zeroed in Monday night from the opening tip, give yourself a pat on the back for solid analysis. VanVleet felt it too, and he explains why he thought it was that way. “I think our intensity was up a little bit,” he said. “ think everybody felt like they had something to play for, and that’s tough. It’s been tough for us all year after winning a championship. We know what the ultimate goal is, so getting up for regular season games that we know really don’t matter long-term, I think that was a challenge this year. Having something to really lock in and laser in on, this being the playoffs and Game 1, and you know the history of all the Game 1s, just trying to go out there with a good performance. That was something I think we were focused on, and I liked our intensity and our approach last night from pretty much everybody that stepped on the floor.”

A YEAR WISER

VanVleet said the feeling this year from last starting the playoffs is significantly different and his feeling of the situation had nothing to do with being in a bubble this time around. “I think we are a little more comfortable this time around because we know what it takes and we know what the journey is going to be,” he said. “Last year I feel like we were still pretty new with each other so we were still trying to figure it out. I think the chemistry is probably a little bit up this year and we feel a little bit more comfortable. And we lost against Orlando last year in Game 1 so I think that was all in our minds going in. Like we don’t want to start that way again.”

mganter@postmedia.com

Flame-throwing Pearson gets doused, but Jays hang on for win — Toronto Sun

For a pitcher known for his sizzle, the hype surrounding Nate Pearson is beginning to fizzle. Read More

Flame-throwing Pearson gets doused, but Jays hang on for win — Toronto Sun

For a pitcher known for his sizzle, the hype surrounding Nate Pearson is beginning to fizzle.

No one is about to throw in the towel on Pearson, but some disconcerting signs are emerging.

Flame-throwing Pearson gets doused, but Jays hang on for win

Mind you, he has only made four starts with plenty more to follow, but Pearson has yet to pitch with any semblance of consistency or command in any of his appearances.

He couldn’t get out of the fifth inning Tuesday night as Pearson left after surrendering three homers and five runs.

A five-run inning in Toronto’s top half allowed the Jays to fashion a 7-3 lead.

There was an opportunity presented to close the door.

Instead, Pearson allowed it to swing wide open as Baltimore kept fighting by exposing the kid.

Pearson was long gone as the O’s used an intentional walk followed by an infield single when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. couldn’t pick a short hop at first to even the score at 7-7.

The night required extra innings, which haven’t been friendly to the Jays.

It would end, though, with the Jays surviving the baseball marathon by eking out an 8-7 win aided by a Baltimore error and some dubious base running in 10 innings.

A leadoff walk followed by a two run blast and Pearson was suddenly looking like the MLB greenhorn that he is, unable to locate pitches, falling behind hitters and yielding a 2-0 lead to the Orioles in their first at-bat.

Pearson didn’t look comfortable on the mound, an issue that has plagued him the past the two starts following a decent debut.

Once again, Pearson’s much-vaunted fast ball was lit up as Anthony Santander went yard at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Pearson turns 24 Thursday.https://www.youtube.com/embed/q4lJqB7Ogo8?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1

He turned aside the home side in the second despite a single to right by Cedric Mullins, who was left stranded at second after he stole the base.

The Jays picked up their starter in the third when the red hot Randal Grichuk belted a two-run homer off Wade LeBlanc after the O’s starter walked Cavan Biggio with two out.

Pearson gave it back when Santander went back to back against Big Nate, this time connecting on a line drive to centre field for his team-leading ninth homer of the season.

Toronto’s bottom of the order was responsible for having runners at the corner with none out in the fifth.

A Biggio walk would load the bases as LeBlanc was given the hook.

Grichuk, who drove in four runs in the series opener, drove in his third and fourth on the night when his double to right scored Anthony Alford and Santiago Espinal as the Jays took a 4-3 lead.

It would increase when Travis Shaw hit a no doubter off Travis Lakins Sr. for a three-run blast.

In his first three starts, the Jays provided Pearson with one run.

When he took to the mound in Baltimore’s bottom half of the fifth inning, Pearson had a 7-3 advantage.

He promptly walked the No. 9 hitter.

On one swing of the bat, the Orioles cut the Jays’ lead in half when Chance Sisco unloaded on a Pearson slider for a two-run moon shot.

BIGGIO WADES INTO TATIS JR. TATOR

The son of former big leaguer Craig Biggio, Cavan Biggio grew up around baseball and was introduced to the game’s culture at a pretty young age.

Like any sport, baseball has its unwritten rules.

Some argue San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. broke the rule by swinging on a 3-0 pitch late in a one-sided game against the Texas Rangers Monday night.

The 21-year-old would club his second homer of the game, a grand slam no less.

Post game, Texas manager Chris Woodward brought up the unwritten rules in voicing his disapproval. “There’s a lot of unwritten rules that are constantly being challenged in today’s game,” said Woodward.

“I didn’t like it, personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game.

“But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis. So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/bDLYH34sct4?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1

Biggio understands the game’s unwritten rules, but he also understands the aggressive approach shown by Tatis Jr.

“As a hitter you never want to give the pitcher anything,’’ said Biggio.

The rule of thumb for any athlete plying his trade in whatever sport is to never show up an opponent.

Biggio doesn’t feel Tatis Jr. was showing up the Rangers.

ROUNDING THE BASES

Manager Charlie Montoyo said the team’s original diagnosis of Bo Bichette (Grade 1 knee sprain) was confirmed by Dr. James Andrews. The skipper added how there’s no timeline for Bo’s return … Rowdy Tellez is feeling better, according to Montoyo, but the 1B/DH remains in concussion protocol after he took an elbow to the head late in Monday night’s win. Depending on how Tellez is feeling Wednesday, there’s the possibility he’ll enter MLB’s seven-day protocol … Injured closer Ken Giles (elbow) engaged in some light catch, while injured RHP Trent Thornton (elbow) has a chance to start Thursday when the Jays play host to a double dip in Buffalo against the Phillies…RHP Jacob Waguespack was added to the taxi squad, paving the way for the team to recall RHP Julian Merryweather.