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Despite 'pen, Grichuk, Blue Jays fall to Rays

@KeeganMatheson
August 16, 2020

The supporting cast in Toronto’s bullpen did their best to keep things close in Sunday’s resumption of Saturday’s suspended game in Buffalo, but a late home run from the red-hot Brandon Lowe sunk the Blue Jays in the first half of Sunday’s doubleheader. Entering the ninth inning tied at 2,

The supporting cast in Toronto’s bullpen did their best to keep things close in Sunday’s resumption of Saturday’s suspended game in Buffalo, but a late home run from the red-hot Brandon Lowe sunk the Blue Jays in the first half of Sunday’s doubleheader.

Entering the ninth inning tied at 2, the Blue Jays had their best reliever on the mound in Jordan Romano, but the right-hander allowed his first run of the year on that opposite-field blast from Lowe. The 3-2 loss will sting the Blue Jays, after they had their opportunities to jump ahead, but a handful of encouraging relief performances are what set those up.

Box score

With Thomas Hatch picking up on Sunday after Chase Anderson got the Blue Jays started with three innings of one-run ball the day prior, the Blue Jays were set up well to navigate the remaining innings. The presence of young starters in Hatch, Anthony Kay and Ryan Borucki, in the Blue Jays’ bullpen has given Charlie Montoyo plenty of options with the expanded 28-man rosters.

Hatch allowed an unearned run, but he looked sharp over two innings, with four strikeouts and a fastball that reached up to touch 96.4 mph. The outing leaves Hatch with a 2.70 ERA over 10 innings this season, as the right-hander continues to make a great case for himself in 2021 and beyond, when he’s expected to return full time to starting.

Ryan Borucki loaded the bases in the seventh, an uncharacteristic misstep after he opened the season with 13 strikeouts over six scoreless innings, but right-hander Rafael Dolis was there to pick him up. Entering with the bases loaded and just one out, Dolis struck out Joey Wendle with a 96.7-mph fastball, then forced Willy Adames to fly out to left field to escape the jam.

Randal Grichuk got the Blue Jays offense started with a bloop double in the fourth and later came around to score. Grichuk also singled in the sixth, then carried over his success into the nightcap, homering in the first inning of the Blue Jays' 7-5 loss. If the center fielder can get hot, he’ll really help to stretch the lineup, especially with Bo Bichette on the 10-day IL due to a right knee sprain. Grichuk is closely monitoring his exit velocities and chase rates while trying to make some changes to the type of contact he’s making.

“I’m trying to lift the ball more,” Grichuk said this weekend. “Obviously, in a smart way, and not trying to lift more in a bad way that’s going to lead to swings and misses or foul balls in the game. But I’m trying to let the ball get deep and still put it in the air. I’ve been working with Dante Bichette and Guillermo Martinez in the cages. I understand and they understand that’s my main focus right now, to get the ball in the air more.”

Keegan Matheson covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.