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Gurriel's pair of HRs not enough for Blue Jays

September 21, 2018

TORONTO -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. appears to be surging toward the finish line as the versatile Blue Jays infielder is starting to put the finishing touches on what has become an impressive rookie campaign.Gurriel picked up the second multihomer game of his career with a pair of solo shots in

TORONTO -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. appears to be surging toward the finish line as the versatile Blue Jays infielder is starting to put the finishing touches on what has become an impressive rookie campaign.
Gurriel picked up the second multihomer game of his career with a pair of solo shots in Toronto's 11-3 loss to the Rays on Friday night at Rogers Centre. The Cuban native finished 3-for-4, but it did little to impact the final results. Rookie right-hander Sean Reid-Foley was roughed up for four runs and the Blue Jays bullpen ran into even more issues as Toronto's staff finished with eight walks.
The 24-year-old Gurriel also homered in his final at-bat during Thursday's dramatic 9-8 victory over Tampa Bay, which saw the Blue Jays match a franchise record by overcoming a six-run deficit to record the walk-off win. Add it all up and Gurriel became the 14th player in franchise history to hit a home run in three consecutive at-bats and the first since Josh Donaldson on Sept. 16-17, 2017.
"I knew when I came back from my injury, sooner or later, I was going to start getting the groove back a little bit," said Gurriel, who returned from an ankle and knee injury in late August. "I didn't lose confidence at all. I knew I had it in me and I just kept working hard. I was really confident in myself, and I see the results now."
Gurriel's first home run of the game came on a 99.1-mph fastball from Rays opener Diego Castillo. According to Statcast™, that's the fastest pitch hit for a home run by a Blue Jays player this season. At a projected 450 feet, it's also the longest home run hit by any player on a pitch of at least 99 mph in the Statcast™ era.

The second homer was almost as impressive for Gurriel, who once again hit it out to straightaway center field. This time it came off Rays reliever Jalen Beeks, and according to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 415 feet. Gurriel's big game also happened to come on the same night that his brother, Yuli, hit a pair of home runs for the Astros. Gurriel now has 11 home runs on the year and he's the 11th Blue Jays player to reach double digits in homers this season.
Gurriel found out about his brother's performance midway through from one of his teammates.
"It was Kendrys [Morales]," Gurriel said through an interpreter. "The first one who told me. He told me, 'Hey, congratulations.' I just said, 'Thank you.' I thought it was because I hit two homers, but then he told me it was because my brother also hit two homers. I'm happy for him and I'm happy for me as well."
Gurriel's performance was one of the only positives on another bleak night for the Blue Jays, whose pitching staff was hit hard, early, and often. Reid-Foley allowed two runs in the first, one more in the fourth and another in the fifth before he was chased from the game. The 23-year-old rookie allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and four walks while striking out five and throwing 56 of his 95 pitches for strikes. Jose Fernandez, Mark Leiter and Christopher Guerrieri were all charged with multiple runs each out of the bullpen in the lopsided loss.
"We walked too many guys. We didn't help ourselves out at all, that's for sure," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But they hit it. They have good balance, they throw all of those lefties at you, and if you go to the lefties, they throw all the righties at you. September baseball is a beautiful thing."

Reid-Foley made what was expected to be his final start of the season because of an innings limit, but the Blue Jays have yet to make any official announcement. If Friday night was the final time Reid-Foley takes the mound in 2018, it might not have ended the way he wanted it to, but his overall season will still go down as a major success. After posting a 5.09 ERA in Double-A New Hampshire last year, Reid-Foley enjoyed a resurgence this season and re-established himself as one of the Blue Jays' top prospects.
The former second-round pick of the 2014 MLB Draft started the year in Double-A and was then promoted after eight starts. He posted a 3.90 ERA in 16 starts for Triple-A Buffalo and that was enough to earn a promotion to the big league level in August. Since then, Reid-Foley had a bit of a tough time -- as evidenced by his 5.40 ERA and 20 walks in 30 innings -- but he also flashed plenty of promise with 37 strikeouts.

The talent is there but some additional maturation is needed as the Blue Jays look to get his command issues under control for 2019. Overall, he has thrown a combined 159 2/3 innings this season between the Majors and Minors, while showing why MLB Pipeline currently has him ranked as the Blue Jays' No. 10 prospect overall.
"I think it will definitely help make me realize the little things that you kind of overlook in the Minors or even when you were playing baseball before pro ball," Reid-Foley said when asked how this season will benefit him in 2019. "Really just hone all of that stuff in. Spring Training, no stats, no nothing, just a fresh year and get back at it."
Blue Jays right fielder Randal Grichuk hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning that, according to Statcast™, was projected to travel 464 feet. That was the second-longest home run of the season for Toronto and Grichuk is responsible for the longest one as well. Grichuk hit one a projected 471 feet on June 25.

"Somebody told me. I mentioned it to him and said, 'You might as well hit three.' Word travels fast in this game." -- Gibbons, on how the Blue Jays found out Gurriel's brother also homered twice Friday night
Left-hander Thomas Pannone (3-1, 3.77 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Rays on Saturday at Rogers Centre with first pitch scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET. This will be the fifth start of Pannone's career and he has gone at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer in his last two outings. Tampa Bay is set to counter with right-hander Tyler Glasnow (2-6, 4.22).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.