The Toronto Blue Jays are getting used to their new digs on Florida’s west coast.
Toronto and the visiting Atlanta Braves will complete their three-game series Sunday afternoon in Dunedin, Fla., the Blue Jays’ temporary home site because of Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The Blue Jays won the first game 13-5 on Friday night, then secured the series win Saturday night on Randal Grichuk’s two-out, walk-off single in the 10th in a 6-5 victory.
Through at least May 24, the surging American League East club will play home contests at their spring-training facility — 90 miles north of the Braves’ spring home down the coast in North Port.
MLB added auxiliary lights to bring Dunedin’s 8,500-seat stadium up to standards. Toronto’s average attendance has been less than 1,500 per game due to social-distancing measures.
The ballpark also has a reputation of being a great hitter’s park.
Toronto swatted six homers Friday, with catcher Alejandro Kirk hitting a pair. Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also went deep.
On Saturday, newcomer George Springer belted his first two Blue Jays homers — the second a 470-foot rocket that was the longest hit by a Toronto player in nearly three years. Both shots came on 3-0 pitches.
“(The ballpark) is playing just like it does in spring training, which is really, really short,” Atlanta Braves skipper Brian Snitker said.
Kirk was in the lineup Saturday but hurt his hip and was removed. Replacing him was Danny Jansen, who is batting just .044 with 12 strikeouts in his 17 games. However, Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said he is “a big fan” of Jansen and has confidence in both backstops.
“One of the reasons we’re pitching good is because of our catching,” Montoyo said. “Danny and Kirk have done a great job behind the plate, so I don’t want to forget about that.”
The Blue Jays are 6-2 in their past eight games.
In his return from a forearm injury, Toronto’s Ross Stripling (0-1, 7.56) will make his third start. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in six career appearances against Atlanta — three of them starts.
On Sunday in the series finale, impressive Braves rookie Ian Anderson (2-0, 2.48) will make his sixth start and try to maintain his stellar work.
The right-handed Anderson has never faced the Blue Jays, but in his past two starts he has won twice and combined for 13 2/3 scoreless innings against the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs — the latter his best start of 2021.
“His last two outings have been excellent,” Ronald Acuna Jr. said via a translator. “He’s a tremendous pitcher. I’m not surprised at all. He’s a superstar in my opinion.”
Cristian Pache knocked his first career grand slam Saturday and Acuna homered, but the Braves squandered a 4-0 second-inning lead to lose their third straight.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud left the game in the sixth inning with a left thumb injury after an awkward tag at home plate to retire Grichuk.
–Field Level Media