Blue Jays 9, Orioles 3: Relief pitching brings no relief

Tom Szczerbowski

The Blue Jacks launched three three-run homers but the Orioles could muster only one.

Three bases-loaded strikeouts and faulty relief pitching doomed the Orioles to a 9-3 loss and spoiled a good start by Miguel Gonzalez. One meaningful K came from Jonathan Schoop who’s looking to show us who he really is after his up-and-down series in Boston. Another came from Adam Jones, whose approach at the plate is constantly under scrutiny from hardcore O’s fans. Poor outings from Evan Meek and Josh Stinson didn’t do anything to help fans feel better about the team’s chances this year.

Jays starter R.A. Dickey worked his way quickly through the Orioles’ order the first time, giving up only a one-out double to Steve Clevenger in the top of the second. He had most hitters off balance with first-pitch strikes. The second time through, he wasn’t any easier to hit: he struck out the side (Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Jones) in the fourth and gave up just another hit to Clevenger before retiring Flaherty on a pop fly and getting Schoop to ground out.

Gonzalez was nearly as good. He also started most hitters off with first-pitch strikes, working many of them backwards by starting them off with offspeed stuff. His first mistake was a first-pitch fastball down the chute to Juan Francisco the second time he faced him. Francisco drilled it off the left-field wall for a triple. It might’ve been only a double, but Cruz and Jones jogged after the ball, thinking it was going over the wall, and it bounced and rolled sharply away from them. No one scored, and Gonzalez's success prompted John Gibbons to ask the umpires to check Gonzalez's glove for a foreign substance.

As good as they were the first two times through the order, each pitcher faltered the third time through, although each was victimized by some defensive miscues. Steve Lombardozzi lofted a shallow pop fly to short left field to start the sixth. It fell in front of Melky Cabrera, who apparently thought Jose Reyes had it. The miscommunication cost them dearly when Nick Markakis walked and Nelson Cruz launched a 1-1 fastball over the left-center wall to make it 3-0 O’s. Dickey retired Davis and Jones, but Clevenger (walk), Young (HBP), and Flaherty (walk) all reached base before Jonathan Schoop struck out to end it.

In the bottom half, Melky Cabrera reached on an error by Lombardozzi and Jose Bautista cracked a single to center field. Gonzalez tried to work Edwin Encarnacion down in the zone but left a 1-1 fastball up. Encarnacion lashed out and drove the ball up and out for a three-run shot and a 3-3 tie. Gonzalez retired Francisco and Lawrie on a flyout and a strikeout, but it was over for him when he hit Brett Lawrie with a curveball. T.J. McFarland, just up from Norfolk today, came in to end the inning, although he did walk Josh Thole first.

Gibbons made a tactical error leaving Dickey in to start the seventh, and it almost burned him. Every O’s batter had faced Dickey in the sixth; although he surely had the energy left for another inning, pitchers in general don’t do well the third or fourth time through an order. Indeed, Lombardozzi singled and Nick Markakis cracked a ground-rule double that escaped the glove of Rasmus to put two runners in scoring position for Nelson Cruz. But Gibbons played matchups; he brought in Neil Wagner as a ROOGY to retire Cruz and sent Brett Cecil in to finish things out. Cecil did walk Davis to load the bases, but Adam Jones and Steve Clevenger struck out. McFarland and Ryan Webb held the Jays scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, but Steve Delabar did the same in the top of the eigthh.

Things really hit the skids when Evan Meek came in for the bottom half. He gave up a single to Francisco, a walk to Colby Rasmus, and then a loud three-run dinger to Brett Lawrie. It was 6-3 Jays, but the damage wasn’t done yet. Thole singled, causing Buck to bring in Josh Stinson. Stinson retired Diaz on a bunt-strikeout but then Reyes singled and Melky Cabrera hit a, you guessed it, three-run homer. 9-3 Jays and basically that was the ballgame.

The Orioles try again tomorrow when Chris Tillman faces Dustin McGowan.

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