Homers from Bichette and Biggio not enough

August 4th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- If you asked Randal Grichuk to put a number on it, he’d say about 90 percent of what the Blue Jays’ youngsters have been able to accomplish has impressed him.

“The way they’re handling themselves, the way they’re playing out there on the field,” he said. “They’ve given their all and are playing really, really, really well -- better than most young guys when they’ve come up.”

Even still, with all the excitement that has come from Toronto’s youth this season -- such as Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio going back-to-back in a 6-5 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards Sunday -- the lapses have been equally apparent and telling, no more so than on Sunday.

Yes, there are countless reasons to be excited about the Blue Jays of now as it pertains to the Blue Jays of the future. But there is plenty to learn from now as well.

“It’s all about learning, and that’s our job, to teach our kids,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “And they’re kids, that’s going to happen. ... When you are playing good teams, big league teams, it’s going to haunt you if you don’t make the routine plays.”

Three errors in the past two games -- including two from Bichette Sunday -- and a handful of missteps in the final two games spoiled what started out as a promising weekend for the Blue Jays, who took the first two games from the Orioles. 

The ill-advised actions on Sunday came as soon as the first inning, when Toronto loaded the bases with no outs before ultimately leaving empty-handed. This was due in part to what Montoyo labeled an inexcusable decision by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to tag up on what could have been a Justin Smoak sac fly. The left fielder was instead thrown out before Biggio could cross home tagging up himself.

And missteps came later from Bichette. A flubbed exchange on a routine grounder in the second kept the inning alive, during which the Orioles scored three runs.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 times -- maybe 999,000 times out of a million -- I’d make that play,” Bichette said.

He would make another error in the seventh inning but promptly made up for it by starting a double play the very next batter. 

“We understand there are going to be some slip-ups,” Grichuk said. “It happened to me, it happens to all young guys. In the end it’s going to be all worth it, and right now, it's definitely worth it.”

Worth it for no reason more than the highs the veterans have seen the rookies capable of, such as when Bichette more than made up for his errors by kicking off back-to-back homers with Biggio in the seventh.

“When it happened, it was a lot cooler than I anticipated it would have been," Bichette said.

Even still, Montoyo said part of what made Sunday as ugly as it was stemmed from his group’s pitching performance. Starter Sean Reid-Foley was tagged for four runs (one earned) over his four innings. But what made him most upset with that final number, saying he feels he needs to last five innings to make an impression and be a consistent starter.

“It all starts on the mound,” Montoyo said of the team’s sloppy play. “Reid-Foley was all over the place, and it’s tough to play defense behind that. But having said that, I want to give him credit for minimizing damage.”

Before three veterans shut the door -- headlined by Ken Giles making his first appearance since elbow trouble kept him in Toronto past the Deadline -- the defense did not receive any stability when No. 24 prospect Yennsy Diaz made his debut in the fifth. The 22-year-old tallied up four walks -- the latter two scored runs -- and only lasted 2/3 of an inning, using 33 pitches (14 strikes). 

“Whenever he throws strikes in the big leagues he’s going to be OK,” Montoyo said of Diaz, whose fastball topped at 97.8 mph. “Which for me, it’s good to see an arm like that. There’s a bright future there.”

That kind of tepid hope was on full display for four games in Baltimore. No matter what, even if the players will come to appreciate these learning moments in the coming years, it doesn’t help to reduce the sting of the moment.

“You are not here for next year or the next year. We are not rebuilding,” Reid-Foley said. “We want to win. There’s no, ‘Oh, we’re young.’ No, you’re here."