MLB

Blue Jays overcome Orioles through Grichuk walk-off homer in extra innings

Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer with two outs in the 10th inning, lifting the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

Clubs commemorate annual Jackie Robinson Day by wearing number 42 jerseys

Toronto outfielder Randal Grichuk, centre-left, celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off home run during the Blue Jays' 5-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer with two outs in the 10th inning, lifting the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

With Reese McGuire standing on second base, Joe Panik popped out on a bunt attempt and Cavan Biggio lined out. But Grichuk followed with his ninth homer, a drive to straightaway centre on a 1-0 pitch by Cole Sulser (1-3).

"I barrelled it well," Grichuk said. "My hands kind of got away from me a bit. I knew it had a chance."

Baltimore had taken a 4-3 lead on Hanser Alberto's bloop RBI single against Rafael Dolis (1-1) in the top of the 10th. Alberto had four hits and Renato Nunez homered for the Orioles in their third straight loss.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez hit back-to-back homers for Toronto, which improved to 4-5 in extra-inning games. Dolis earned his first big league win since May 6, 2012, with the Chicago Cubs.

"We've had a lot of one-run games and we've blown a couple late and we've won a couple late," Grichuk said. "It's setting us up to be in a good place late in the year."

The clubs commemorated Jackie Robinson Day by having all team members wear uniform number 42, an annual observance normally conducted on April 15 but moved this year because of the COVID-19-altered schedule.

The homers by Guerrero and Hernandez opened the scoring in the fourth, but Baltimore tied it when Ryan Mountcastle reached on a bases-loaded infield single in the sixth, driving in two runs.

Guerrero extended his hit streak to 10 games. Hernandez's 12th homer matched Chicago's Jose Abreu for the American League lead.

Toronto went up 3-2 when Guerrero scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the sixth, but Nunez tied it again with a drive off Jordan Romano in the eighth.

Romano left the game one pitch later with an injury to the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Upstart Jays vying for playoff berth

An expanded playoff structure for the truncated 2020 baseball season has given the Blue Jays more reason to focus on the present as well as the future.

The team's overhaul took over three years to complete and is finally showing signs of fruit. The Blue Jays enter the second half of the 60-game campaign with a solid chance of reaching the post-season for the first time in four years.

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Rather than unloading assets for prospects, Toronto's front office built on its young core in the off-season via free-agent signings and trades. The team still appears far from being a true contender but the strides are evident.

Entering Friday night's home game against Baltimore the Blue Jays were third in the American League East and held the second wild-card position in the revamped eight-team AL playoff structure.

The true test will come in September when pressure will be high.

After series with Baltimore, Miami and Boston, the Blue Jays will play 10 games against the powerhouse New York Yankees over an 18-day stretch.

If that make-or-break run doesn't provide clarity, a season-closing three-game weekend series against the Orioles just might.

With files from The Canadian Press

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