At long last, the Orioles have won a game in Canada. Entering the game with a four-game losing streak and an 0-for-Canada stretching since August 2009, this was a game that they had to win. The matchup for this game looked like the best one heading into the series, with Jeremy Guthrie up against a rookie starter. Though the O's ended up triumphing over the Blue Jays, the victory was no sure thing and there was drama down to the last out in true Kevin Gregg fashion. Everything else on the day went wrong for Ryan Adams, but his bases-loaded single in the 9th proved to be the difference-maker in the game and the Orioles can head back across the border with one win to declare in Customs.
Guthrie and Toronto rookie Zach Stewart staged a shutout through five innings. Jeremy looked better than the new kid, throwing only 64 pitches, with one hit, one walk and five strikeouts. Making his major league debut, Stewart was a little rough around the edges but he worked fast and scattered the seven hits he did allow over seven innings. Guts was forced from the game after only the five innings because of an unspecified back problem. The MASN broadcast team speculated that a back spasm popped up. Hopefully it turns out to be nothing serious.
Temporarily disproving the truism that they hate Guthrie, the O's hitters struck in the top of the 6th when Guts was still the pitcher of record. J.J. Hardy opened up the inning with a home run over the left field fence. Hardy had two extra-base hits on the day and is now sporting a nine-game hitting streak. Nick Markakis Jetered a ball to third base (an impressive feat on a fast turf infield) for a single, wheeling around to score two batters later when Vladimir Guerrero doubled into the left field corner to spot the O's to a 2-0 lead.
The early exit by Guthrie was unexpected, so Jim Johnson had to warm up in a hurry during the top of the 6th. He came into the game for the bottom of the inning and then the Orioles remember that they hate today's starter. Reliever JJ allowed a leadoff single to Jayson Nix, who should have been erased on a tailor-made double-play ball by Yunel Escobar, but Adams couldn't field it cleanly and everyone was safe. A Corey Patterson sacrifice bunt put both men in scoring position and they came in on a single to center by Jose Bautista, giving Guthrie another very tough no-decision. JJ allowed two more singles to load the bases but escaped without any further damage thanks to a GIDP from Edwin Encarnacion.
The score was still tied 2-2 when Stewart was pulled after seven innings. He allowed two runs over 7 on 86 pitches, only walking one batter. Not a bad debut for a guy who was in AA a week ago. It was a battle of the bullpens from there on.
That's always a bit of a terrifying phrase for Orioles fans, and with good reason. All the more worrisome considering one of our two best relievers already had a bad day. If he was sharp, Johnson may have gotten a second inning, but instead it was recently-recalled Jason Berken who got the ball for the 7th and the 8th. He showed some of the Berken of last year, pitching a couple of perfect innings and getting two strikeouts. You can tell it's been a tough year up until now for Berken with him sporting a 6.98 ERA after the two scoreless innings. Today he was more than good enough.
Berken was the beneficiary when the Orioles' offense trickled over the dikes. Guerrero led off the 9th with a single, quickly being replaced by the Gazelle, Nolan Reimold, on the basepaths. Nolan lived up to his nickname as he motored from first to third when Luke Scott slipped a single through the 1B-2B hole. First and third and no one out, Derrek Lee came to the plate. Silky D bounced a ball to third. Reimold was running on contact and I thought he might be out, but Nix was close to the foul line and had to throw over the barreling Nolan's head. J.P. Arencibia had to leap for the ball and Nolan barely slid in under the tag: Orioles 3, Blue Jays 2.
At this point, Felix Pie ran for Scott on second base. Mark Reynolds drew a walk, earning a little redemption for a bone-headed play from earlier in the game where he was doubled off first base on a fly ball to right field. That brought Adams to the plate, who was up until that point lined up to be the day's goat. In three at-bats before the ninth, Adams had hit into three double-plays, including two GIDPs, plus had the error that led the two Toronto runs score in the 6th.
Recent history doesn't matter quite so much as the present, though, and Adams finally got a grounder past the infield, scoring Pie for a 4-2 lead. Truth be told, the ball Adams hit could have been a third GIDP if only the Jays infielders weren't playing shallow to try to cut off Pie at the plate. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and either way Adams has a little something to feel good about today. The RBI was his first in his eight major league games.
The insurance run proved all the more important as Gregg served up a home run to Adam Lind to lead off the 9th inning. "Here we go again!" thought the Birdland faithful, but perhaps he just needed it to be a one-run game to get the adrenaline flowing, because the next three batters were retired with little fanfare. Somehow, Gregg has 13 saves on the season, which seems kind of incredible for a guy who entered the game with a 1.56 WHIP.
It wasn't pretty, especially with a 1-10 with runners in scoring position. Adams' bases loaded single was the only RISP hit on the day. It was enough, though, to snap the losing streak and give the Orioles a little bit of positive momentum heading into a stretch of interleague play. Tomorrow, the Birds will be in Washington, with Zach Britton scheduled to get the ball against Jason Marquis of the Nats.