Orioles can’t get Grichuk or avoid sweep (updated)

Randal Grichuk keeps homering against the Orioles as if his contract provides incentives for it.

Just one team. No one else.

Grichuk hit two more today off left-hander Tommy Milone, raising his total to four in the series and 16 in 33 career games versus the Orioles. His leadoff shot in the second inning gave Toronto an early lead. His two-run shot in the sixth gave them a new one.

One ball cleared the center field fence, the other bounced off an orange awning in the home bullpen.

The Orioles are thrilled that he’s bounced out of town.

A pesky bunch that’s also a streaky one, the Orioles were swept by the Blue Jays with today’s 5-2 loss and are 4-11 at home. They’ve gone 8-1 as the road team.

Which direction they go from here at the .500 mark, unrelated to the schedule, is anybody’s guess, but it’s going to define them.

Leadership inside the clubhouse is most important during the roughest patches in a season and the Orioles no longer can lean on Trey Mancini, who’s been away from the team while undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Now they’ve lost shortstop José Iglesias, who must report to the alternate camp site in Bowie during his period on the injured list with a strained left quadriceps. Iglesias has stated his desire to mentor the younger players and he provides a rare voice of experience.

His absence is felt as much off the field as on it.

“I think we’re doing it collectively,” manager Brandon Hyde said earlier today in his Zoom conference call. “Losing Iggy is a big loss for us. Hopefully not too long. But we’ll just do that collectively.

“We’re not a very veteran group right now. I think that we’re going to continue to play hard. But Iggy is a major voice in our clubhouse. He’s really been helpful to a lot of our young players about approach during games. I’ve seen him pull guys aside in the clubhouse quite a bit. Always talking the game,] and that’s extremely helpful. So a lot of us have to pick up the slack and continue to coach and teach and keep the positive atmosphere going in the clubhouse.”

The Yankees have Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez. The Red Sox had Mookie Betts. The Jays have Grichuk, a thorn in the Orioles’ side the length of a tree branch.

Besides the two home runs today, he also flied to the left field fence against Thomas Eshelman in the eighth. A few more inches and he would have put two more runs on the board.

“He keeps hitting the ball on the barrel,” Hyde said. “We’re just having a tough time keeping the ball in the ballpark with him. ... We had a tough time getting him out this series.”

“He was on some kind of fire against us,” Milone said. “I think he had been hitting well anyway, but I think the power numbers have just shown up in time, I guess, for us to face him. He’s just hot and today he hit a couple mistakes I left out over the plate and when someone is hot like that and is hitting a bunch of homers, that’s what’s going to happen and that’s what he did.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed with a single and Brandon Drury’s sacrifice fly gave the Blue Jays a 4-2 lead. It grew to 5-2 in the ninth against Paul Fry after Cavan Biggio’s fly ball dropped near Dwight Smith Jr.’s feet for a double and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled.

Hyde batted Chance Sisco first again today and the catcher drew a nine-pitch walk in the first inning - his 10th free pass of the season. Anthony Santander followed with a double to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, but Sisco was out at the plate on Renato Núñez’s grounder to third.

A contact play during social distancing.

Núñez’s hitting streak ended at seven games. He hasn’t homered since Aug. 7, a span of 10 games.

Sisco broke for home on his own. Santander didn’t advance to third base. And Hyde said afterward that the team has to be better in those situations.

“We shot ourselves in the foot early on by making mistakes - bases, some poor approaches with runners in scoring position that could have made it a lot easier on Tommy and didn’t,” Hyde said.

Twenty of Santander’s 29 hits are for extra bases. His double today was lined to left field. No area of the ballpark is safe.

The Orioles failed to score after putting runners on second and third with no outs. They failed in the second inning after a leadoff single by Dwight Smith Jr. and infield hit by Pat Valaika.

Chris Davis struck out on three pitches, swinging through an 80 mph changeup and watching one that caught the outer half. Cedric Mullins popped up and Sisco flied out with the count full.

The lead finally came to the Orioles in the fourth and the lower portion of the lineup was involved again.

Hanser Alberto led off with a double and scored on Smith’s single into right field. Smith raced to third base after the ball scooted under Teoscar Hernández’s glove and Valaika singled.

Valaika-Out-at-Home-White-Sidebar.jpgMullins singled and kept going to second base when left fielder Anthony Alford made an ill-advised throw to third, but Hernández caught Sisco’s fly ball and threw out Valaika trying to score.

Davis struck out for the second time before Mullins’ at-bat and again in the ninth. He also lined to center field.

Milone retired 12 of 14 batters at this point in the game. Drury and Alford were stranded after opening the fifth with singles. Milone had thrown 50 of 68 pitches for strikes against a team that’s always in swing mode.

Two-out singles by Rio Ruiz and Alberto and a passed ball again put runners on second and third in the fifth inning, but Smith flied out. The Orioles were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position today and stranded 10, including two in the ninth inning.

Núñez struck out to end the game at the three-hour mark.

Milone completed six innings for the second time this season. He allowed three runs and seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, and Eshleman replaced him after 89 pitches.

“To get swept is obviously very disappointing, but it’s part of the game,” Milone said. “We’re having those ups and downs. Obviously, it would be nice to kind of stay on an even keel, but sometimes this is the way baseball is and I think we’ve just got to keep battling, keep going out there and grinding. A lot of the games we’re losing are one- and two-run games and eventually it will be on our side pretty soon.”

How do the Orioles slam on the brakes?

“Just stringing together good at-bats,” Valaika said. “I think when we’re winning, we’re stringing like five, six, seven at-bats together, putting up some crooked numbers, and I feel like lately, it’s been a little hit or miss on that. Our pitchers have done a good job keeping us in the game and we’ve just got to be better.”

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