He was injured for one month and inept at the plate for another, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that Randal Grichuk became the most dangerous Blue Jay in June.
Grichuk’s 10th homer of the season didn’t have the drama of Justin Smoak’s walkoff, game-winner in the ninth on Saturday afternoon, but the right fielder’s two-run blast in the fifth was just as big in the Jays’ 4-3 win over the Tigers.
It’s been a sizzling June for the Texan who had eight homers in the month, rebounding rather nicely from spending 29 games on the DL with a knee strain. Despite all that time missed Grichuk is producing to the point that he’s looking more and more like a significant part of the Jays future.
“Confidence plays a huge role,” said Grichuk, who certainly hasn’t lacked that since June 3, a stretch in which he has hit eight homers, the third most in the AL over that span. “It’s a production game. You produce, you play and if you don’t, you don’t.”
When Grichuk exited to the disabled list with a knee strain on April 30, it actually offered a chance tor reset. Changes in his swing and stance that hadn’t been effective in his first month of the season could still be worked on as he rehabbed in Florida.
And as soon as he returned to the lineup, Grichuk has been the Jays’ most productive hitter.
“I think (confidence) is the whole thing,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “More than that, he’s laying off of bad breaking balls. Early on, he was free-swinging too much and chasing those all the time. I think he put too much added pressure on himself, naturally, coming to a new town.
“He’s feeling good now. It just shows you how much confidence plays in this game.”
Seven of Grichuk’s 10 homers have come at the Rogers Centre where he’s also shown competence in right field. Saturday’s blast was the fifth time this season he’s hit one out to tie the game or give the Jays the lead.
“I try not to make excuses,” Grichuk said. “Did (trying to fit in with a new team) maybe play a factor? Possibly. I’d like to think I just wasn’t producing and was able to make a slight mechanical adjustment and things started clicking.”
As much as June has been a big month for Grichuk, it was miserable for Smoak — until the final two games.
A homer Friday was his first in 18 games — his longest long-ball drought in almost six years — and then he followed it up with Saturday’s dramatic winner.
“June hasn’t been great for me … I went through a time there where I wasn’t aggressive enough at times and it got me into a little bit of a funk,” Smoak said. “I’ve just tried to get the feeling that I want to go out there and have success. I feel like that’s been there the last few games.”
If there was a surprise with Smoak’s heroics on his 11th homer of the season, it was that it was just the second walkoff homer of his career.
But the best part for the soft-spoken native of Goose Creek, S.C.? “Honestly, nobody wants to play extra innings,” Smoak said. “So to be able to do it in the ninth and get it over with is always a good feeling.”
The Jays didn’t get their first hit until Kevin Pillar led off the fifth with a double, but they made the rest of the inning count, scoring three runs, highlighted by the Grichuk homer … It was an encouraging outing for Jays starter Sam Gaviglio who was dinged for a couple of homers, but allowed just three runs on four hits across seven innings … Nice day behind the dish for Luke Maile who gunned down two attempted Tigers steals at second … The Jays have now won 10 of their past 11 at home while the Tigers have dropped 11 in a row overall and 12 of their past 14 at the Rogers Centre … The spot in the rotation for Gaviglio may be safe for a while considering Jaime Garcia is in Florida where he had an injection in his shoulder to combat cramping. Don’t expect him back any time soon … Aaron Sanchez was planning some light throwing on Saturday but won’t do anything serious until the swelling on his index finger subsides. That means at least one more start for rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki (on Monday) … Top prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. (knee) meanwhile has begun hitting and light running at double-A New Hampshire.