BALTIMORE -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is making the most of his opportunity at the Major League level and has turned enough heads that he should figure prominently into the Blue Jays' plans for 2019.Gurriel's latest highlight came during Toronto's 6-4 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday night, when he came through
BALTIMORE -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is making the most of his opportunity at the Major League level and has turned enough heads that he should figure prominently into the Blue Jays' plans for 2019.
Gurriel's latest highlight came during Toronto's 6-4 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday night, when he came through with a two-run single in the top of the seventh. The versatile infielder finished 2-for-3, while Aledmys Diaz also chipped in with a pair of hits as the Blue Jays picked up their fourth consecutive victory.
The big night for Gurriel came on the heels of some lengthy struggles. Since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 24, Gurriel was batting just .198 with a .527 OPS prior to Tuesday's outburst. Despite the recent skid, Gurriel is still enjoying a strong rookie year at the plate with a .282 average and .736 OPS across 59 games.
"I feel good. I've noticed they've changed a little bit the way they approach me," Gurriel said through an interpreter after the game. "They're a little bit more careful, but I have to do the same thing on my side to make adjustments. I've hit the ball hard lately as well, and I know it's going to happen. I'm not too worried about it. I'm just making sure to make the adjustments, and I feel happy about it."
An even bigger test for Gurriel this season has been his performance at shortstop. There has been a lot of debate whether Gurriel can handle that spot over the long haul, but after making six errors at the position in his first 43 games this season, the native of Cuba has committed just one over his last 15.
Toronto's decision to make Gurriel the undisputed shortstop seems to have played a role in his comfort level. Gurriel spent the early stages of his rookie campaign shifting between second and shortstop, but when he returned from the DL, the Blue Jays shifted Diaz to third and cleared the way for Gurriel. With top-tier prospect Bo Bichette waiting in the wings, Gurriel's future home might not be at short, but he's starting to prove he can handle it.
"He has been our primary guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We put Diaz over at third base, and he has done a heck of a job over there at third base, too. But really it's for the organization to get a look and see if he can do it going into next year. He's showing that he can."
Overall, the second game of a three-game series between these two teams was a sloppy affair. Toronto rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh, but all of the runs were unearned because of a throwing error charged to third baseman Steve Wilkerson. It seemed rather fitting, because earlier in the game, the Blue Jays allowed two unearned runs of their own thanks to a pair of errors.
Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez came away with the no-decision after he allowed four runs on four hits and three walks as his short quality start streak was snapped at two games. A lack of command once again proved to be Sanchez's biggest obstacle as he threw 40 of his 77 pitches for strikes. The four innings marked Sanchez's shortest start since he returned from the 60-day disabled list to make an abbreviated start against the Phillies on Aug. 25.
Sanchez typically throws his fastball -- a sinker and four-seamer -- approximately 65 percent of the time, but that percentage dropped to 52 percent against the Orioles. Instead of working primarily with his hard stuff, Sanchez mixed in 21 changeups and 16 curveballs to mixed results. The changeup in particular seemed to be causing him issues with just one swinging strike, zero called strikes, four fouls and two balls put in play. The other 14 were balls.
"It was just so-so," Gibbons said of Sanchez's outing. "He labored a little bit, so I thought, 'You know what? For all he's been through, get him out of there.'"
GILES STILL PERFECT
Ken Giles recorded a three-up, three-down ninth inning to secure his 23rd save in 23 opportunities this season. Giles' 4.94 ERA doesn't appear all that impressive on the surface, but most of his issues this season have come in non-save situations. With a save on the line, Giles has posted a 0.42 ERA, but in all other appearances, his ERA has skyrocketed to 9.12. It's a bizarre trend, but considering how well he has pitched with the game on the line, the Blue Jays will take it.
"I love everything about him. He's perfect," Gibbons said with a laugh. "Not many us are perfect either. Just a few of us."
BEATING UP THE BIRDS
Diaz has 23 multi-hit games this season and five of them have come against Baltimore. Toronto's third baseman is batting .349 (22-for-63) in 17 games vs. the Orioles in 2018. In 17 games this month, he's batting .326 (15-for-46) with six doubles.
Right-hander Marco Estrada will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their three-game series against the Orioles at Camden Yards on Wednesday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Estrada was originally scheduled to start Thursday, but his outing was moved up a day since he was limited to 55 pitches in his last start vs. the Yankees. He allowed eight runs in 2 2/3 innings in New York. Baltimore will send Jimmy Yacabonis to the hill.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.