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Grichuk’s huge day, more Shoemaker magic lead Jays over Orioles

Matt Shoemaker pitched another gem and Randal Grichuk celebrated his new contract with a big day at the plate, helping the Blue Jays avoid a sweep at the hands of the visiting Baltimore Orioles with a 5-3 victory.

Grichuk, who inked a big five-year contract on Tuesday, cranked a no-doubt home run in the third inning, to go along with his double and run scored earlier in the game and smashed another long home run in the eighth for good measure.

Grichuk, like most of his teammates, got off to a rough start at the plate, going hitless through four games against Detroit before homering and doubling off of the Orioles in the series opener.

He was even better on Wednesday, while Shoemaker was equally impressive on the mound.

“I think we’re going to sign a couple more guys to $52 million contracts to get them going. I’m going to talk to (general manager Ross Atkins) about that,” joked manager Charlie Montoyo. While Grichuk said fans wouldn’t have panicked had he gone hitless, “you want to go out and perform well, reassure them.”

Shoemaker was able to match his impressive first start as a Jay (seven scoreless innings against the Tigers), giving up only two hits and a walk, to go along with eight strikeouts in shutting down Baltimore through seven. Joe Biagini did his job, but Daniel Hudson was rocked again, giving up another homer, this time a three-run job, forcing Ken Giles to enter to pick up the save.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. knocked in two runs for Toronto with a double in the eighth, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.

For once the Jays got on the board early, with Grichuk doubling in the first, and scoring when a Teoscar Hernandez grounder — later ruled a single — was thrown away. It was Toronto’s first score prior to the fourth inning so far and another small crowd, this time consisting of 11,436 paying patrons, was there to see it.

Getaway day was bullpen day for the Orioles, who started reliever Nate Karns (two innings, three hits, one unearned run, four strikeouts, no walks), then trotted out a host of relievers.

It was another encouraging outing for Shoemaker, Toronto’s first free agent signing of the off-season, who had missed large portions of each of the previous two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, but has two sub-4.00 ERA seasons to his name. “The biggest thing is feeling healthy,” Shoemaker said.

“Phenomenal,” was Grichuk’s take on Shoemaker. “He looked really, really good.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde raved about Shoemaker’s splitter, calling it “an equalizer. It’s a fastball out of the hand that just dies at the end.”

SKIP HIGH ON GRICHUK

Montoyo in on the team going long-term with Grichuk.

“We think he can be that (25-30 home run) guy and we think he can hit for average, .270-.280 type of hitter. That’s what we’re projecting,” Montoyo said.

Grichuk got his first start of the post-Kevin Pillar era in centre field, and it could be the first of many to come, according to Montoyo, who said while he hasn’t seen much of Grichuk at the position, all of the metrics have been encouraging.

Grichuk will also get the odd start at designated hitter, in part to try to prevent a flareup of Plantar Fasciitis and also so the team can see what it has in newcomer Socrates Brito.

“What we hear from Brito is the potential is very good so we’ve got to give that guy a chance. He’s one of the fastest (players) in baseball, but he’s never gotten a chance. So we’re going to give him that chance,” Montoyo said.

Randal Grichuk of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a solo home run in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on April 3, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images

THEY COULD WORK IT OUT

Toronto’s offence had been the talk of baseball – and not for a good reason. The club’s unbelievable 1-for-55 work through the first three innings of its first six games was hard to fathom.

“Have I ever seen anything like this, like the one hit in 50-something innings in the first (three innings)? No, I haven’t, but I’ve seen it now,” Montoyo said.

Montoyo thought the players were pressing too much, so they made some adjustments, starting in batting practice, such as working on going the other way, because the team had been pulling the ball too often.

For one game, at least, the tinkering paid off.

As for the hurlers, stellar through the first homestand of the year: “The pitching was outstanding,” Montoyo said. “If we do that all year, we’re going to win some games.”

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker (34) against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Freddy Galvis (16) tags Baltimore Orioles third baseman Renato Nunez (39) out at second against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Randal Grichuk (15) with two homers against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Randal Grichuk (15) with two homers against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13)against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez (44) doesn't make the catch against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Baltimore Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini (16) comes back to score 3 runs in the 8th Inning against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

5-3 win for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Ont. on Wednesday April 3, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Grichuk Proving his Worth, Jays Win 5-3

AROUND THE BASES 

Montoyo said he isn’t sure what the future holds for Anthony Alford, since Brito and Grichuk will get the bulk of work in centre field. Another trip down to Buffalo could be in the cards. It also isn’t clear if there’s room on the roster for both Alen Hanson (acquired in the Pillar deal) and Richard Urena, since both are utilitymen. It will depend on how many pitchers Toronto keeps around. Urena, playing third base, turned a nice double play to get Shoemaker out of trouble to end the fifth inning and made a fine leaping catch to end the sixth … Luke Maile threw out Renato Nunez in the second inning, making Toronto catchers 2-for-2 this season in throwing out would-be base-stealers … Before later homering, Gurriel Jr. picked up his first hit of the season in the second. The relief was palpable in Gurriel’s big smile. Montoyo had said he’d given the second baseman a day off on Tuesday in order to get him to relax and Gurriel said afterward that Montoyo told him the hits were going to come. Gurriel admitted that he had felt some pressure due to the slow start … Grichuk joked that a fan ribbed him when he couldn’t get to the Baltimore home run, chirping “Pillar would have caught that.”

@WolstatSun

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