Grichuk's 2 HRs help Blue Jays cool off O's

April 4th, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays signed outfielder Randal Grichuk to a lucrative five-year contract extension on Tuesday night, and the following day the versatile outfielder showed why.

Grichuk hit two homers and finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored in the Blue Jays’ 5-3 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon. Right-hander Matt Shoemaker picked up the victory by tossing seven scoreless innings for a second consecutive outing and finishing with eight strikeouts.

Shoemaker was borderline dominant, but the story of the day was once again Grichuk, who had his final two years of arbitration and first three years of free agency bought out for $52 million. The contract talks, which had been weeks in the making, are finally over and the 27-year-old can put his focus back on the field where it belongs.

“Any time a team commits to you like that, you want to go out there and perform well for the fans,” said Grichuk, who has five hits this season, all for extra bases. “For the team, you want to reassure them that they made a good deal. Obviously if I went out there and went 0-for-4, it probably doesn’t change their minds, they know who I am at this point. But it’s definitely satisfying to go out there and have a good game after that.”

The Blue Jays are banking on Grichuk resembling the outfielder who posted an .873 OPS and 23 home runs over the final four months of 2018. The version they can’t afford to have is the one who spent the first month of last season with a slash line of .106/.208/.227. Grichuk has hit at least 22 home runs three times before in his career, but he has yet to produce over the course of a full season. Toronto general manager Ross Atkins is betting on that changing.

The series finale vs. Baltimore was a good start for Toronto’s newest long-term piece. The Blue Jays entered the game with just one hit in 54 at-bats the first time through the order. Grichuk helped reverse the bad fortune with a one-out double in the first inning off Baltimore opener . Grichuk later came around to score when third baseman Rio Ruiz made a throwing error and for the first time this season Toronto scored a run in the first inning.

Grichuk was back at it in the bottom of the third with a solo homer to left field. The native of Texas sent a 1-0 fastball from deep into the left-field seats to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. According to Statcast, Grichuk’s second home run of the season was projected to travel 425 feet and left his bat at 106.7 mph. Grichuk made even more hard contact later in the game with a 110 mph line drive in the bottom of the fifth that was hit directly at center fielder for an out and then another solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, capping the sixth multi-homer game of Grichuk’s career.

“I think we’re going to sign a couple of more guys to $52 million to get them going,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said while laughing. “I’m going to talk to Ross [Atkins] about it. … He looked relaxed to me at the plate. He deserves it. He’s set for life. Good for him and good for us.”

The production from Grichuk gave the Blue Jays’ offense the lift it would need on a day when Shoemaker was almost flawless. The 32-year-old scattered two hits and one walk en route to his second-consecutive quality start of the season. So far this year, Shoemaker has not allowed a run over 14 innings while surrendering just four hits and three walks while striking out 15.

“I think we started out a little slow offensively,” Grichuk said. “The pitching has been phenomenal. I’m excited to see that over a full season. If they can do that, or even close to that, I think we’re going to be in good shape. Offensively, it’s a long season for a reason. We know what we’re capable of. Offensively in the spring we did a heck of a job and I’m excited to see what some of these guys can do.”