New-look bullpen trio seals deal in opener

New-look bullpen trio seals deal in opener

TORONTO -- So far, so good for the Blue Jays' new-look bullpen.

Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna tossed the final three innings to secure a 6-5 victory over the Orioles on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Grilli did surrender a solo homer to Manny Machado, but outside of that one blip everything else went according to plan as Toronto moved within a half-game of the first-place O's.

One game does not guarantee success in the future, but the organization does seem to feel a lot better about the bullpen than it did earlier this season. The early June addition of Grilli followed by the recent pickup of Benoit has led to at least some level of trust.

"We have some guys with a lot of experience, big-time veteran relievers. It just made our team that much better," starter Marco Estrada said. "Seeing those guys out there -- I have confidence in all of our guys, but to see guys with that much experience out there behind you, it puts you at a little bit more ease, I guess. But it's great to have those guys on our team now. We need them, we need all the pitching we can get."

Osuna gets the save

Grilli has been doing his thing for the last two months and has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over the eighth inning. Machado's solo shot was just the fifth earned run he has allowed over 18 2/3 innings with Toronto, and he has struck out nearly 14 batters per nine innings.

Benoit comes with far less certainty after a disappointing first half in Seattle, but the internal hope is that a change of scenery will lead to a similar turnaround to the one Grilli has experienced. Grilli's ERA in Atlanta was 5.29, but since then it has been 2.40. And prior to this season both veteran relievers had a long track record of success.

Toronto had a 6-4 lead Friday night when manager John Gibbons turned the game over to his three relievers. Benoit nearly retired the first batter of the inning, but a slow Pedro Alvarez grounder to first resulted in an infield hit after Benoit's foot appeared to miss the bag. The Blue Jays asked for a review, but there was not sufficient video evidence to overturn the call.

The botched play did not have an impact in the end. Benoit got J.J. Hardy to ground into a double play and then he induced a weak fly ball off the bat of Hyun Soo Kim to end the inning. Grilli and Osuna took it the rest of the way.

"He has a track record, he's a veteran guy, that's always big," Gibbons said. "It's the first time we saw him in that role, but he came through and he got that big double-play ground ball, which is key after that play at first base. I like it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.