TORONTO — When Lourdes Gurriel Jr. began to understand what had happened in the moments after Randal Grichuk accidentally stepped on his right hand, the Toronto Blue Jays leftfielder’s thoughts immediately turned to the club’s post-season pursuit.
“I asked myself: why now? Why now?’” he said after taking batting practice on Friday afternoon, fit enough for an at bat off the bench, but no start for the second day in a row. “I didn’t think it would be this bad, but it is what it is. I really want to make it to the play-offs. That’s why you see me hitting the pitch here, trying to do everything I can to help the team I want to contribute and help the team make it to the play-offs.”
Hours later, the Blue Jays did their part to keep the chase alive with a 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles, boosted by three hits, an RBI and a run from Cavan Biggio, who was partly in the lineup because of Gurriels absence.
Steven Matz shoved for 7.1 innings, Danny Jansen got the attack rolling with a two-run homer in the second and a four-spot in the sixth provided breathing room that was much handier than expected after the dismal Orioles suddenly had four runs of their own in the eighth.
To reflect the urgency of the moment, manager Charlie Montoyo called on Jordan Romano to take a 6-3 lead with two up and one out in the eighth, and he conceded a Trey Mancini RBI single before giving up. the jam escaped. He then closed things off in a clean ninth to the roar of a crowd of 28,855.
The Blue Jays (89-71) have to win one more game in the final weekend of the season than both the Boston Red Sox (89-70), who were in Washington, and the Seattle Mariners (89-70), who played the Angels. host, to force a wildcard tiebreak on Monday.
“We’re definitely going to be aggressive,” said Jansen, who added an RBI double and scored in the sixth, before the game. “I don’t think we’re going to really change much from what we’ve been doing over the past month. It will believe in our starting rotation, our bullpen and our attack, it will pass the baton from one man to another and stay on the attack.”
Gurriel’s desire to go on the offensive again was evident when he rejoined the lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday against the New York Yankees after missing three games after the September 23 accident.
Every swing he made, however, caused a burning pain along the two stitches on the middle joints of his right middle finger, and the skin still grew back on the top third of his right index finger. Unsurprisingly, he went 0-for-8 and then sat down Thursday when there was too much pain for him to get a decent hit at the plate.
“I had trouble with the grip,” Gurriel said, speaking through interpreter Hector Lebron, estimating his swing at about 80 percent of his normal. “That was what bothered me the most. I was just trying to find the best grip for it.”
His absence on Friday opened the door for Biggio, the best option left for first base, as Montoyo was determined to kill Vladimir Guerrero Jr. get going with a DH day. On his first start since August 2, Biggio looked much more like his 2020 self and with Grichuk not producing he may have earned more rope in the remaining two days.
Matz, meanwhile, capped off a quiet solid season by allowing two runs over his 7.1 frames, on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He will finish the regular season with a 3.82 ERA in 150.2 innings over 29 starts, numbers that should spark interest in the pending free player during the off-season.