Grichuk HR walks it off: 'We all screamed'

August 29th, 2020

With Toronto down to its final out in extra innings with major playoff implications looming, walked off the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the 10th with one of the biggest swings of the Blue Jays’ season.

The 5-4 win keeps the Blue Jays two and a half games ahead of the Orioles for the final spot in the American League playoff race as they continue to build momentum at home. The timing couldn’t have been better, either, as the Blue Jays were close to wasting another great start from .

Grichuk’s home run was his ninth of the season and the third hit by the Blue Jays on Friday, including solo shots by and 's 12th, which tied him with José Abreu for the most in the American League.

“There was a lot of celebration postgame. It was a wild game,” Grichuk said after the win. “With the runner on second going into the 10th, we understand a one-run lead. We’re not too down. We know we’re not out of it yet. Obviously, one swing of the bat can tie it up and one swing of the bat can win it. Luckily, it went out way on that side.”

With the Orioles and Tigers both now two and a half games back, the Blue Jays can start to focus not just on holding off their trailers, but on leapfrogging the teams ahead of them. Suddenly, they’re just a half-game back from the Yankees, who dropped both sides of a doubleheader to the Mets on Friday (part of a seven-game skid for the club) as injuries mount. Toronto plays the Yankees 10 times in 19 days in September, so the door is wide open to start the climb.

“We fully expect to be in the playoffs,” Grichuk said. “We are confident in who we are and what kind of talent we have. We’re excited for the games we still have. Winning baseball is fun and the guys are really buying into it.”

It was a complete game from Grichuk, too, who also made the biggest defensive play of the evening in the first inning on a fly ball from Anthony Santander. Breaking back into the left-centre-field gap towards the wall, Grichuk dove and needed every inch of his extension to make a snag. The Blue Jays have had their struggles defensively in 2020, even with fundamentals at times, but Grichuk’s play in centre has been steady in all the right ways.

Ryu put the Blue Jays in a position to steal the win late, and even with that outcome, the Blue Jays’ ace deserved an even better fate than he received.

Ryu sat at 67 pitches entering the sixth inning, and it looked like he would finally become the first Blue Jays starter this season to throw a pitch in the seventh inning or reach the 100-pitch plateau. The sixth inning dragged on, though, and even when Ryu got the ground ball he needed to escape, third baseman Travis Shaw made a poor throw across the diamond to Guerrero, who couldn’t scoop it up. That allowed two runs to cross.

In a surprising decision, it was ruled a hit, not an error, but regardless of the scorer’s call, Ryu has been fantastic since the calendar flipped to August. It’s easy to see that he’s on the cusp of a dominant seven- or eight-inning start, but following the game, he was a Grichuk fan just like anyone else.

“I was in the clubhouse when it happened, but we all screamed. We were all so excited,” Ryu said. “We were down by a run with two outs and we definitely needed it. Grichuk, to his credit, have us that win single-handedly.”