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.

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