Randal Grichuk did it again. Grichuk, who hit four home runs against the Orioles to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a three-game sweep last week, hit a two-run, 10th -inning home run to beat them again.
Grichuk’s homer came on a 1-0, two-out pitch from Cole Sulser and delivered a 5-4 Orioles loss to the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo on Friday night.
It was the Orioles’ third straight loss and their fourth in a row against Toronto, and they fell to 14-17. It’s the first time this season the Orioles have been three games below .500. They trail the Blue Jays by 2 1/2 games for the final-wild card spot as the second half of a 60-game season got under way.
The Orioles scored a run in the top of the 10th on Hanser Alberto’s looping RBI single. Rio Ruiz began the inning at second, moved to third on Cedric Mullins’ sacrifice bunt and scored when Alberto dropped his fourth hit of the game into short right field.
With Ryan McGuire starting the bottom of the 10th on second, Cole Sulser caught Joe Panik’s popout and retired Cavan Biggio on a fly to center before Grichuk homered.
Grichuk has 17 home runs and 39 RBIs in 34 games against the Orioles. In four games this season, he has five home runs and 13 RBIs.
Manager Brandon Hyde elected not to walk Grichuk, who would have been the potential winning run because Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was up next.
“There’s a pretty good hitter hitting behind him, too,” Hyde said in a video conference call.
“I know that Grichuk has been doing damage against us, but I like the matchup of Sulser against him. Guerrero’s swinging the bat well against right-handed pitching this year, better than left-handed pitching.”
“Sulser was throwing the ball great. He just didn’t execute a pitch.”
Sulser falls to 1-3 and has a 3.68 ERA.
Alberto is among those tired of seeing Grichuk beat the Orioles.
“Every time I see this guy in the batting box, my heart feels a little weary because he’s been good against us,” Alberto said. “Pretty much, he knows what we’re going to throw, and he’s ready for the pitch.”
Means’ night: Orioles starter John Means gave up back-to-back home runs in the fourth by Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez.
In four innings, Means threw 77 pitches, his high for the year, and allowed two runs on four hits. He’s allowed four homers in his last two starts, and his ERA fell to 8.59.
“It was progress,” Means said. “It still wasn’t good enough. I’ve got to stop giving up the long ball. I thought the changeup was better tonight. Still a lot of work to do on it, but it was better. Fastball command wasn’t great, but I thought I pitched well enough to get by.
“I thought the [home run] to Guerrero was a good pitch, and the next one [to Hernandez] was a little just up the middle.”
The back-to-back homers were the second against the Orioles in three games. On Tuesday, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot hit consecutive home runs against Tommy Milone.
“I thought it was improved over his other outings,” Hyde said. “He gave up those two solo homers, but other than that he threw the ball really well … I thought he gave us four pretty good innings.”
Means’ next outing probably will be on Wednesday against the New York Mets.
“It hasn’t all come together,” Means said. “I think I really am close. I’m starting to get the pitch count up. That’ll help get everything back to normal.”
Pitching at Sahlen Field was different.
“People are saying it’s a hitters’ park,” Means said. “Honestly, I can’t really tell. It can’t compare to Camden Yards.
“It’s definitely a hitters’ park. It’s cool here. We’ve got a tent where the locker room is. It’s actually really nice. They’ve done a good job of keeping everything up.”
Orioles overly aggressive on the bases: The Orioles tied the score at 2 on Ryan Mountcastle’s two-run single in the sixth against Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ru.
Guerrero scored on Tanner Scott’s wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth to put the Blue Jays ahead, 3-2, and Renato Núñez’s seventh home run of the season tied it at 3 in the eighth. It was Núñez’s second in three games.
In the top of the top of the ninth, Mountcastle was out stealing after reaching on an error by Biggio. After Pat Valaika singled, he tried to take second when Anthony Bass’ pitch was caught by catcher Danny Jansen after hitting the ground.
“Valaika was a dirt-ball read,” Hyde said. “He was just reading, trying to be aggressive with the bottom of the order, trying to do something to get into scoring position. Pat just read a dirt ball, and it didn’t get away from Jansen very far.”
In the top of the seventh, Mullins was thrown out stealing by Jansen, who was exceptional.
“That was a straight steal,” Hyde said. “There was a tag on the butt that was pretty unlucky. He didn’t get his best jump there.” Biggio took Jansen’s throw in front of the bag and made a good a sweep tag on Mullins.
Jackie Robinson Day: Normally, Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated on April 15th, the day that he broke baseball’s color line in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Because of the pandemic, Major League Baseball decided to celebrate Robinson on Friday with all players on every team wearing his No. 42, which has been retired.
With the protests this week, the occasion took on more significance.
“It shouldn’t be more significant,” Orioles reliever Mychal Givens said in a pregame video conference call.
“It should be eventful every day, supporting Jackie Robinson and what he’s done for us … and gave us the opportunity to play baseball. For all African-Americans and little kids, it’s an opportunity to support and bring back the history of what he’s done.”
Hyde lauded first base coach Anthony Sanders for leading discussions in the clubhouse before the Orioles decided not to play on Thursday.
“I’m speaking from my heart,” Sanders said. “It affects everybody a lot of different ways. I don’t know how much change is going to happen overnight … the awareness, the tough conversations that need to be had.
“We’ve got a really good group here, a lot of young kids who need direction a little bit and need a platform to be able to speak their thoughts.”
Schedule changes: The Orioles will make up Thursday night’s postponed game with Tampa Bay as part of a doubleheader on September 17th. The Orioles will be the home team in the first game, and the Rays are the home team in the second game. Both games are seven innings, and first pitch is at 5:05 p.m.
Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets will begin at 4:05 p.m. instead of 7:35 p.m.
Coming up: Alex Cobb will face Taijuan Walker in the second game of the four-game series with Toronto on Saturday at 6:37 p.m.