The Toronto Blue Jays used to win baseball games in bunches. Not just blasé single games but two, three – even four in a row.
As recently as late March, when the Blue Jays beat the New York Yankees 5-3, it was the beginning of a four-game win streak.
Who could have envisioned, some 56 games after that early surge, that Toronto would still be trying to match that modest outburst heading into Friday night’s American League East basement battle between the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.
There were a couple of three-game streaks along the way. But most self-respecting baseball teams don’t brag about those.
Look at the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who are running away with the AL East race this season. Both those teams have win streaks of nine games each and followed that up with additional eight-game jaunts.
As for the Blue Jays, they struggle to win even two in a row.
Heading into Friday’s game, Toronto had gone a staggering 33 games without stringing together consecutive wins. That represented the second-longest in-season streak in franchise history, after the 49 set by the 1979 team. At least that team still had the veneer of a franchise expansion as an excuse.
The Blue Jays (28-35) finally vanquished that nagging irritation on Friday when the warming bat of Randal Grichuk helped Toronto to a 5-1 win over Baltimore (19-43) on the heels of a 5-4 triumph in 10 innings the night before.
Grichuk clocked a 1-1 pitch from Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner over the wall in left in the fifth inning, a solo home run that broke a 1-1 tie.
The hit was Grichuk’s sixth in his past three games, five of them for extra bases, including two home runs.
He also made a couple of nice catches in right field, in particular in the top of the sixth when he made a great diving stab on a fly ball that was falling just foul off the bat of Manny Machado.
Toronto also got home runs from Russell Martin, who drove in two runs off two hits, and Kevin Pillar. Toronto outhit Baltimore 13-5. J.A. Happ (8-3) continued his strong pitching, allowing an unearned Baltimore run off just two hits over seven innings to earn the win.
After Grichuk provided Toronto with a 2-1 lead, the Blue Jays extended the advantage to 3-1 in the sixth when Martin, who homered for the Blue Jays in the second, singled to left to score Teoscar Hernandez.
The Blue Jays added another run in the seventh when a Hernandez triple brought home Yangervis Solarte before Pillar homered in the eighth.
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson, sidelined for the second time this season, this time for left calf tightness, was eligible to come off the disabled list for the Baltimore game.
He was optimistic he might be in the lineup but the Blue Jays decided to keep him under wraps for at least another game to try to ensure he has fully healed. Donaldson has missed Toronto’s past nine games.
And starting pitcher Marcus Stroman tossed three innings in a simulated game on Friday in Florida and came out of it feeling hale and hearty, the Blue Jays said. The next step is to have Stroman pitch in a game next week before contemplating the next move on his recovery route.
The Jays were celebrating Friday’s game as Pride Night in a show of support for the city’s LGBTQ2 community.
As part of the opening ceremonies, three ambassadors from the You Can Play social-activist campaign – former Olympic rower Marnie McBean and hockey players Harrison Browne and Jessica Platt – threw out the first pitch.
There was also another celebration going on as manager John Gibbons turned 56 on Friday. Some fans presented him with a cake and sang Happy Birthday near the Toronto dugout before the game.