TORONTO -- Don't look now, but Kendrys Morales is on a tear, and his recent power surge sparked the Blue Jays yet again on Tuesday night.Morales homered for the third consecutive game with the latest shot coming in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 8-2 victory over the Orioles. It marked
TORONTO -- Don't look now, but Kendrys Morales is on a tear, and his recent power surge sparked the Blue Jays yet again on Tuesday night.
Morales homered for the third consecutive game with the latest shot coming in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 8-2 victory over the Orioles. It marked the third time in Morales' career that he has homered in three straight games, the other two times happening in 2016.
The native of Cuba now has 17 home runs on the season, and he is three away from reaching the 20-homer plateau for the fourth consecutive season. His long ball was just one in what turned into a barrage of home runs off the Orioles' pitching staff as Toronto hit at least four home runs for the fifth time this season.
"He has been doing it his whole career, ever since he came over from Cuba," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has been a very productive hitter in the big leagues. Switch-hitter, that helps him. You look back, I don't know really when it started, but he has been very consistent. I looked up at the board, and he's up to about .260, probably with zero infield hits. That's what he is. He has always been able to hit."
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Aledmys Diaz started the outburst in power during the second inning with a solo homer off Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy. In the fifth, first baseman Justin Smoak hit an opposite-field homer to left for his 19th of the year. Morales followed in the very next at-bat with a solo home run to left-center field as Toronto went back-to-back for the fifth time this season.
Bundy was pulled after Morales' at-bat, but that wasn't the end of Toronto's offensive explosion. Later in the inning, rookie Billy McKinney picked up the first home run of his Major League career with a deep shot to right field off reliever Ryan Meisinger. According to Statcast™, McKinney's homer was projected to travel 411 feet and left his bat at 109.4 mph.
This was the first time since Aug. 23, 2017, that the Blue Jays had at least three home runs in one inning. The last time it was done, Ryan Goins, Raffy Lopez and Steve Pearce all homered during the second inning of a game against the Rays. The all-time record for Toronto home runs in an inning is four, which was set on Aug. 17, 2001, when Jeff Frye, Jose Cruz Jr., Shannon Stewart and Carlos Delgado all homered in the sixth inning vs. Texas.
"I've dreamt of that for a long time," said McKinney, who was acquired prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline as part of the deal for lefty J.A. Happ. "I'm just really excited, that's for sure. … The guys on the team are great, and I'm looking forward to the new journey."
The offensive onslaught meant that Blue Jays right-hander Sam Gaviglio was able to easily pick up his first victory since May 25. Gaviglio allowed two runs on six hits and struck out seven without issuing a walk over seven strong innings. This was the first time since July 20 that Gaviglio completed six innings, and he fell just two outs shy of matching his season high for innings.
Gaviglio's latest start also marked the continuation of a bizarre trend that has seen the 28-year-old thrive at hitter friendly Rogers Centre while struggling on the road, including at a number of pitcher friendly ballparks this season. Gaviglio is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts) at home this season compared to a 1-5 record with an 8.36 ERA in nine starts on the road.
"I wish there was [an explanation]," Gaviglio said after snapping a streak of 15 starts without a victory. "I enjoy pitching here. I wish there was [some way] I could figure out why that is. Just taking it one game at a time and move forward."
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McKinney saw his initiation into the big leagues continue when he received the silent treatment after returning to the Blue Jays dugout following the first home run of his Major League career. An excited McKinney ran into the dugout, and he immediately got fist bumps from bench coach DeMarlo Hale and hitting coach Brook Jacoby, but everyone else pretended like he didn't even exist. That prompted McKinney to walk through the dugout handing out imaginary high-fives to all of his teammates, who were looking the other way.
"I think I've seen a video of somebody do it before, so I thought I would try it," McKinney said of the phantom high-fives. "I don't know if I was any good, but I tried to go with it."
Kevin Pillar has doubled in four consecutive games, which matches the longest streak of his career. Pillar also doubled in four consecutive games from April 27-30, 2015. The 29-year-old finished Tuesday's game 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Also, the Blue Jays improved to 11-1 against the Orioles this season, which is six more wins than they have against any other team.
The Blue Jays will close out their three-game series against the Orioles when left-hander Thomas Pannone (0-0, 4.15 ERA) takes the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 12:37 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Pannone made his Major League debut earlier this month, but this will be the first big league start of his career. In six starts for Triple-A Buffalo, Pannone went 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA while striking out 40 over 36 2/3 innings. Baltimore will counter with right-hander David Hess (2-7, 5.95).
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.