Small ball helps secure big victory
TORONTO — With their season on the line, the Orioles put away their power bats and instead opted for small ball as the path to their 4-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
The Orioles lead the majors with 247 home runs this season, and on nights when they haven’t been able to hit the ball out of the park, their offense has had few other answers.
But they offered a much different look Thursday as they won for the second straight night and moved into a tie with the Blue Jays for the first American League wild-card spot. The Orioles finish their regular season with three games at Yankee Stadium this weekend.
Resorting to small ball was a break from the norm for the Orioles, and even though their offense has been short on production lately, Thursday’s output was more than enough for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, whoallowed just one hit in 62⁄ scoreless innings.
“We had some hits to take advantage of few opportunities that [ Blue Jays starter Marcus] Stromangave us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s been pitching really well, too.”
The Orioles (87-72) kept the ball in play against Stroman and delivered hits with runners on base. Thursday marked just the second time in 12 games they’ve scored more than three runs.
“Today we showed different type of stuff,” said right-fielder Michael Bourn, who drove in a run, scored another, drew a walk and stole a base. “We’ve got good hitters on this team. They know how to do that. In the postseason, if we are able to get to that point, you’ll need that as well.”
After J.J. Hardy opened the third inning with a double, Adam Jones moved him to third with a groundout to the right side, and Hardy scored the game’s first run two batters later on Manny Machado’s sacrifice fly to deep center field.
The Orioles rallied again in the fourth, getting back-to-back oneout singles from Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoopto put runners at the corners. Bourn hit a grounder to third that could have been an inning-ending double play, butJosh Donaldson’s throw drew second baseman Devon Travis off the bag; the Blue Jays were lucky to get the forceout at second.
Hyun Soo Kim drove in Bourn on a two-out single to right field to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the seventh.
Mark Trumbo sped out of the batter’s box in the eighth, stretching a single into a leadoff double, then scored on Matt Wieters’ single. Orioles get key overturned call: Jimenez fielded his position well throughout the night and was the beneficiary of a call that was overturned after an Orioles manager’s challenge in the seventh.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a ball just to the left of the mound that Jimenez bobbled, but he recovered to make a throw to first. First base umpire Ted Barrett initially called Tulowitzki safe, but video review showed that Jimenez’s throw just beat Tulowitzki’s foot to the bag. Jones’ jolt just short: Jimenez and Stroman kept damage to a minimum throughout the night, and the hardest hit ball was off the bat of Jones in the seventh. It ended as a long flyout.
Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar made a jumping catch against the center-field fence to take away a hit from Jones.
The Orioles’ Manny Machado, center, throws out the Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar, left, as pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez watches during the fifth inning.