Blue Jays sweep awful Orioles with pair of eighth inning homers

Blue Jays sweep awful Orioles with pair of eighth inning homers

The farewell tributes to Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ will have to wait for another day.

Or perhaps another season.

On Sunday at the Rogers Centre, the big lefty and his team’s most reliable starter this season served up yet another solid performance in what will likely be his last home start for the Jays.

Happ tamed the Orioles early to help set the stage for a late rally in which the Jays won 5-4 to finish off the three-game weekend sweep over their malodorous AL East companions.

After a slow start to their day, the Jays offence picked it up with a four-run eighth inning on two-run homers from Randal Grichuk and Yangervis Solarte to secure the win over the awful O’s.

In many ways, however, the game was about Happ, fresh off his big week in Washington for the MLB all-star festivities.

It certainly wasn’t lost on the majority among the 39,021 at the Rogers Centre that this could be his last appearance in Toronto given he won’t have another start here before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Happ surely must be weary of talking about his immediate fate after facing waves of trade chatter in D.C. but is trying to remain on an even keel.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) works against the Baltimore Orioles during fifth inning American League baseball action in Toronto on Sunday, July 22, 2018.

Frank Gunn /


“I’m not letting myself go there,” Happ said of the persistent talk that as a pending free agent in good form he’s almost sure to be moved. “I’m just going to wait and see. It’s a tough place to be mentally. I’m trying to just avoid those ‘what ifs’ right now.”

He did just that on Sunday as Happ came out firing, striking out five of the first seven Orioles batters he faced and nine overall. He allowed five hits and no walks joining Houston’s Justin Verlander as the only pitchers with four games of nine or more strikeouts and zero walks this season. The only other Jays hurler to do so was Roger Clemens, who had five such outings in 1997.

“That’s usually when the game is going in a good way for us and for me,” Happ said of a high strikeout and low walk count. “Pounding the zone, getting back to being aggressive and even when I fall behind staying aggressive.”

Without the early run support, Happ wasn’t about to get his 11th win of the season because the Jays bats had a sleepy start to the Sunday. And he also missed out on an appreciative sendoff from the crowd under the closed roof.

Manager John Gibbons can be the sentimental type but didn’t think that was the place for it, given Happ’s elevated pitch count and a long fifth inning.

“I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be around,” Gibbons said. “So whatever is going to happen I’m sure we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks so I’ll find another way to get him recognized.”

Though he has regularly professed his admiration for Toronto and the fans here, that’s not high on the list of concerns for the 35-year-old southpaw, however.

“It’s a weird thing in some aspects I want the next week to go quick,” Happ said of the looming trade deadline.  “And then I might look back and maybe not feel that way.”


Happ might have been fine for the sixth if the Jays had been able to turn a routine double play earlier in the fifth inning. But too often with this team, that’s asking too much.

The lowlight of the day was in the eighth when shortstop Aledmys Diaz and Lourdes Gurriell Jr. collided when fielding (and failing) on a ground ball up the middle.

“It beats you up,” Gibbons said of the shoddy play in the field, which has been a factor too often this season. “It can turn the game in a hurry, especially in a close game.

“Mistakes are going to happen, but we’ve just been making too many. (The collision) was a communication thing, nobody knew who was taking it. They’ll iron it out.”


The pair of two-run homers in the eighth was indicative of the explosiveness the Jays can still show on offence on occasion.

Grichuk got the first of them with a shot to left field that brought home Curtis Granderson. It was the centre fielder’s 13th homer of the season and his fourth three RBI outing. Since June 3, Grichuk has gone 38-for-140 (.271) with 11 doubles and 11 homers.

“I felt like we were taking good at bats and putting good swings on balls,” Grichuk said of the feeling in the dugout that the runs would come. “They were either not falling or just a tick off.”

Solarte’s team-leading 17th of the season was not only the game winner but his seventh go-ahead homer this year. Solarte now leads the teams in hits (90) as well as homers.

“We know we’re capable of (having big innings),” Solarte said. “We’ve done it in the past. We’ve done it a lot this season. We know we can always come back.”


Though he still remains a work in progress in the field, Gurriel Jr. continues to be a force at the plate. A pair of singles in his first came back from a concussion gave him 11 hits in 21 at-bats and five consecutive multi-hit games …  Gurriel is just the seventh rookie in Jays history with a multi-hit streak game of five or more and the first since John Olerud in 1990 … There’s not many teams the Jays own but the Orioles are one of them. Toronto has a 9-1 record against them this season and has won seven in a row, their longest stretch against the O’s since 2010 … Sunday’s win was the Jays 26th comeback victory of the season and their fourth sweep of a series three games or longer. The Orioles, meanwhile, have now been swept 11 times and are a woeful 11-28 in divisional games.

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