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Orioles drop series finale to Blue Jays and fall out of first place in AL East

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TORONTO — Inside the cramped visiting clubhouse at "PLREC000155">Rogers Centre, the Orioles quickly packed their equipment bags, eager to get back home to Baltimore.

Despite a disappointing 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, the Orioles finished their six-game road trip with series wins in New York and Toronto.

Their stay atop the AL East lasted just one day, but the Orioles kept the same tunnel-visioned approach that has served them well all season.

“Good road trip, successful road trip, we played a hell of a road trip,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Let's go home. We've got a lot of business to handle.”

Accolades and setbacks quickly put in the past, the Orioles (76-60) look forward to what might be the biggest homestand in Baltimore in 15 years: A four-game series against the New York Yankees that starts tonight, followed by three games against the Tampa Bay Rays. New York took back sole possession of first place in the division Wednesday night with their 6-4 win over the Rays.

“It's the same way our clubhouse has been all year,” said Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hit his sixth homer in as many games. “We won the series, everyone's happy. Obviously, we wanted the sweep today, but the clubhouse is still relaxed and still good. We're going to get ready for the Yankees.”

For the first two days here in Toronto, the Orioles thumped the Blue Jays, outscoring them 16-0. Their 18-hit output Tuesday was a season-high.

One night later, they fell victim to small ball on Toronto's artificial turf.

The Blue Jays (61-75) used two bunt hits — including a safety squeeze — to fuel a four-run seventh inning and beat the Orioles before an announced 14,458.

“Broken bat and a bunt single,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said as he replayed the inning out loud. “Pop up and a safety squeeze and a ground ball that went up the middle. … It's hard to fault anything.”

The Orioles managed just five hits, stymied by Toronto starter Brandon Morrow, who held them to three hits over six innings. The O's couldn't take advantage of Morrow's early wildness.

After Jones led of the second inning with his 27th homer of the season, a solo shot over the Jays' bullpen in left field, Morrow walked the bases loaded with one out. But the Orioles plated just one additional run for a 2-0 lead.

Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (6-4) was in control for most of the night, working ahead in the count. He threw 19 first-pitch strikes in his 6 1/3 innings of work. After allowing a leadoff homer to Rajai Davis in the third that tied the game at 2, Gonzalez retired 11 of his next 12, leaning on his split-fingered fastball and working the plate inside and out.

But Gonzalez, who was 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five August starts and was one of the top vote-getters for AL Pitcher of the Month, ran into trouble in the seventh. After Yunel Escobar opened the inning with a double to left, Kelly Johnson dropped a bunt to the left of the mound that Gonzalez backhanded, but he couldn't make the throw to first on time.

Two batters later, Adeiny Hechavarria laid down another bunt — a safety squeeze that hit the dirt patch a few feet in front of the plate and died. Gonzalez charged from the mound, and tried to scoop it to catcher Matt Wieters, but it went awry past home plate, scoring the go-ahead run and chasing Gonzalez from the game.

“I thought I had it, but it just didn't go my way,” Gonzalez said of Hechavarria's bunt. “We were thinking about that. Wieters came up to me and said, ‘Hey, they might bunt, so let's make good pitches.' I thought I made a good pitch. It was a slider, and he got a piece of it.”

From there, the Blue Jays tacked on three more runs. Anthony Gose's infield single off Luis Ayala loaded the bases, and Davis' single up the middle plated two runs. Jones' wild throw from center skipped passed Manny Machado at third, allowing Gose to score and make it 6-2.

Gonzalez, who entered the game having won four of his last five decisions, was charged with five earned runs, the most he's allowed in seven starts. He was coming off an outing in which he threw seven scoreless innings in the Bronx, becoming the first rookie pitcher to beat the Yankees twice in New York over a span of 33 days since the Orioles' Tom Phoebus in 1967.

But on Wednesday, Gonzalez learned the fine line between victory and defeat when another promising outing unraveled quickly.

“They were [both] well-placed,” Gonzalez said of the bunts. “It was tough.”

In the eighth inning, with two on and one out, pinch hitter Lew Ford laced a ball down the left-field line that was tantalizingly close to the chalk but called foul by third-base umpire Laz Diaz. Orioles third base-coach DeMarlo Hale and Showalter argued to no avail, and Ford later grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“I didn't see it,” Reynolds said. “But I know DeMarlo doesn't act out very much, and for him to go out there and question it, obviously he thought it was fair, but that's the way goes.”

That call became critical when Reynolds homered in the ninth, a two-run blast that hit the restaurant in center field.

Despite the loss, the Orioles quickly turned the page.

“They just had that one big inning,” Jones said. “It happens. You string a couple of hit together. We had is the last couple of days. Today, they got it. It [stinks] on our side, but it's the game of baseball, so move on, keep going. We've got the Yankees [tonight].”

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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