Ori­oles drop rub­ber match to Blue Jays

Cecil Whig - - & - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Baltimore Ori­oles sud­denly have com­pany in the Amer­i­can League Wild Card stand­ings.

Start­ing pitcher Yo­vani Gal­lardo bounced back from his short­est out­ing of the sea­son to pro­duce a qual­ity start but his team’s of­fense strug­gled to find the score­board as the Ori­oles dropped the rub­ber match to the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-3, on Wed­nes­day and sur­ren­dered its lead in the race for the AL’s sec­ond Wild Card.

With the loss, Baltimore (72-61) now shares the fi­nal post­sea­son spot with the Detroit Tigers, who pulled even with the O’s fol­low­ing a win ear­lier in the day.

“[The loss] is def­i­nitely tough but the only thing we can do now is get ready to go on Fri­day and start out fresh,” Gal­lardo said. “It’s big from here on out. All these games are re­ally im­por­tant for us and we just have to fig­ure out a way to get it done.”

In the se­ries fi­nale against the AL East-lead­ing Blue Jays, the Ori­oles found them­selves trail­ing af­ter the first in­ning.

Jose Bautista con­nected for a lead-off home run on Gal­lardo’s first pitch of the game and catcher Rus­sell Martin fol­lowed with a two-out, tworun blast on a 3-2 pitch to pad Toronto’s early lead.

“It’s just one of those things that’s frus­trat­ing. It’s never easy for these guys to come from be­hind, es­pe­cially af­ter you give up three runs in the first in­ning,” said Gal­lardo, who al­lowed three runs on five hits over six in­nings with two walks (one in­ten­tional) and three strike­outs. “Af­ter that, I just put up ze­ros and got some ground balls and got out of some tough jams.”

Wed­nes­day marked an­oth-

BALTIMORE

er dif­fi­cult open­ing frame for the Ori­oles start­ing pitcher, who en­tered the con­test with a 7.00 ERA in the first in­ning of his 18 starts this sea­son.

“I look more at the body of work. If you would have told me com­ing in that he was go­ing to hold them to three [runs] over six [in­nings] I would have liked our chances,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said of Gal­lardo. “[First in­ning struggles] hap­pen with a lot of pitch­ers un­til you find [a rhythm]. Un­for­tu­nately, some of their best hit­ters … like a lot of teams, are at the top of the or­der.”

While the start­ing pitcher set­tled down to throw five con­sec­u­tive score­less in­nings, Baltimore’s of­fense could not solve Gal­lardo’s coun­ter­part. Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez worked around five sin­gles and al­lowed just one un­earned run over six frames.

Baltimore’s lone tally off Sanchez (8-6) came in the fifth in­ning when lead­off hit­ter Hyun Soo Kim sin­gled, ad­vanced to third on a base hit by Jonathan Schoop and scored when a ground ball by Manny Machado was booted by third base­man Josh Don­ald­son.

“[Toronto’s] start­ing pitch­ing was tough the en­tire se­ries, that’s why they’re lead­ing the league in pitch­ing,” Showal­ter said.

Kevin Pil­lar sin­gled in Dioner Navarro in the sev­enth in­ning and Michael Saud­ers con­nected for a solo home run in the eighth in­ning to cush­ion the ad­van­tage for the Blue Jays, who weath­ered a ninth in­ning rally by the Ori­oles.

Af­ter a sin­gle by Nolan Reimold, Schoop de­liv­ered a two-run home run to left field to pull Baltimore within two runs. The game ended one bat­ter later when Machado flew out just shy of the right field wall.

“It’s tough be­cause we’re chas­ing [the Blue Jays] and they took two of three but we just have to learn from it, get a good off day [on Thurs­day] and come back stronger,” said Schoop, whose ninthin­ning homer—his 21st of the year—pulled him within one of Roberto Alo­mar for the most in a sin­gle sea­son by an Ori­oles sec­ond base­man all time. “Com­ing into Septem­ber we just have to com­pete and win as many games as pos­si­ble.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

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