TORONTO -- A lot of people were ready to write off Randal Grichuk earlier this year, but the outfielder has since started to make the case that he is more than just a placeholder and rather a piece of the future.
Grichuk's hot streak continued on Thursday night when he hit a two-run homer to propel the Blue Jays to an 8-5 victory over the Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Teoscar Hernandez added a solo home run, Justin Smoak collected the go-ahead RBI double and rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki grinded through five innings to pick up the win.
The 26-year-old Grichuk has reached base in all but two of his last 21 games and is batting .310 (27-for-87) with five homers, nine doubles and 14 RBIs over that same span. He also entered play on Thursday tied for fifth in the American League with 12 extra-base hits since the All-Star break.
"He is really doing a nice job," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has big-time power, you guys see it. He couldn't have gotten off to a worse start this year, and then of course the injury. But since he has been back, he has been doing a tremendous job. He doesn't do it a lot, but he'll take his hits the other way occasionally, too. I don't know why they ever throw him a fastball, but sometimes they do. It's a huge turnaround."
Gibbons is right, and what a difference a few months makes. At the end of April, there was no shortage of critics who believed Grichuk should be designated for assignment. He was out of options and blocking the path of fellow outfielder Hernandez while posting an ugly .106/.208/.227 slash line across 25 games. Around that same time, Grichuk hit the disabled list with a right knee sprain, which led to a month-long absence and the opportunity for a fresh start in June.
Grichuk, who also homered during Wednesday's loss to Boston, has 14 home runs since June 3. The ability to generate a lot of power was one of the things that caused the Blue Jays to trade for Grichuk during the offseason. Despite a lengthy absence, he needs four more home runs to reach at least 20 for the third consecutive year. The native of Texas also entered play ranked fifth in the AL with 30 extra-base hits since June 3, and his .557 slugging ranked fifth.
Equally hot has been the bat of Smoak, who stepped to the plate one batter before Grichuk and delivered an RBI double to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning. Smoak finished 3-for-4 and now has back-to-back games with at least three hits for the second time this season, and the second time in his career.
"I'm just trying to be competitive and put up good at-bats," said Smoak, who is also riding a 13-game hitting streak. "Over the last few weeks, it's started to feel pretty good."
Hernandez moved into a tie with Smoak for the team lead in home runs when he hit his 18th of the year during the third. The 25-year-old has now homered in consecutive games for just the second time in his career. It marked Hernandez's eighth career home run against Boston, which is his highest total against any team.
Borucki wasn't nearly as effective as usual, but he still found a way to navigate his way through the Red Sox's lineup. The 24-year-old allowed two runs in the first and two more in the fifth before he was chased from the game, but it was still enough to pick up his second career victory.
"Any time when you can grind and can help your team win a ballgame, especially against Boston, is definitely uplifting," Borucki said. "I definitely feel good about this one, especially because I kept us in the game, helped us stay in the game and helped us get the victory. It felt pretty good."
Mookie Betts became the first player to hit for the cycle off the Blue Jays since Indians outfielder Rajai Davis on July 2, 2016. Betts singled in his first at-bat, tripled in his second and doubled in the fourth, with all of those hits coming off Borucki. In the ninth, Betts became the 21st player in Red Sox franchise history to complete the cycle when he homered off Blue Jays closer Ken Giles.
"I don't know if you can when he's hot, but it seems like he's always hot," Gibbons said when asked on how someone can pitch to Betts. "He'll take his walks, too, that's the thing. ... I don't know how you can have a better year until you look at [J.D. Martinez] hitting a couple spots behind him. I'd vote them co-MVPs on this day if I had to."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Blue Jays' final run came on Devon Travis' RBI single in the sixth inning to score Curtis Granderson. On the throw to the plate, Travis took second base and initially was called safe. But after a replay review, umpires determined that Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon's throw to second baseman Brock Holt retired Travis. The call was overturned, but the run remained on the board in the eventual victory.
Grichuk trails only Mark McGwire for the highest percentage of hits to have gone for extra bases (minimum 1,500 plate appearances). Of Grichuk's 386 career hits, 198 of them have gone for extra bases, which equals 51.3 percent. McGwire finished his career with 1,626 hits, 841 for extra bases, which led to a slightly higher 51.7 percent.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
There were a lot of content fans at Rogers Centre on Thursday as they watched Toronto snap a three-game losing streak, but no one was more happy than one particular man located just behind the Blue Jays' bullpen in left field. The fan caught not one, but two home run balls in the same inning.
The first grab happened when Martinez hit his 35th home run of the season on a shot to left. The fan, who brought his glove to the park, made an impressive over-the-shoulder grab -- but it was only the start of his eventful inning. In the bottom half of the fifth, he made yet another grab on Grichuk's two-run homer. This time, the fan might have made an even more impressive catch as he reached down over a railing to pull the ball out of the air. Not bad for a night at the park. More >
Right-hander Marco Estrada (5-8, 4.65) will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Rays on Friday night at Rogers Centre. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Estrada is coming off a strong outing against the Mariners that saw him carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning. If he continues to pitch well, it's possible the Blue Jays will look to deal the pending free agent before the end of the month. Tampa Bay will counter with lefty Blake Snell (12-5, 2.27).