Orioles drop rubber match to Blue Jays
— 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-
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