From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- Joe Saunders began pondering perfection just one inning into his latest start.Saunders and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and the charging Baltimore Orioles blanked Toronto 4-0 Monday, cutting their AL East deficit to one game."(Saunders) was the difference today," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.The Orioles, who took two of three at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, moved even closer to New York. The Yankees lost 4-3 at Tampa Bay.J.J. Hardy drove in two runs as the Orioles won for the eighth time in 10 games. The one-game gap marks the closest anyone has been to the Yankees since mid-June.Acquired recently from Arizona, Saunders (1-1) retired the first 17 Blue Jays batters before hanging a changeup to nine-hole hitter Adeiny Hechavarria, who lined a two-out single to center in the sixth.Saunders acknowledged he'd long been dreaming of the possibility of a perfect game or no-hitter."You think about it," he said, smiling. "I thought about it after the first. I was like Ooh, nice. I didn't give up a hit in the first.'"Baltimore, which had lost four in a row at Toronto, collected its eighth shutout of the season. The Orioles have won 20 of 28 overall.Saunders bounced back nicely from his Baltimore debut, when he allowed six runs in 5 1-3 innings in a loss to the White Sox."When I got traded over here they had a great thing going," Saunders said. "You just want to come over here and contribute as much as you can. You don't want to mess it up and get blown up a lot."After Hechavarria's hit, Rajai Davis followed with a walk, but Saunders struck out Colby Rasmus to end the inning. Saunders allowed three hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out two."Today he settled in a little bit more," catcher Matt Wieters said. "He was definitely in control the whole game and was able to mix in different off-speed pitches."Luis Ayala replaced Saunders after the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Ayala escaped by fanning rookie Moises Sierra and getting Jeff Mathis to fly out.Pedro Strop worked the eighth and Jim Johnson finished for Baltimore, who were playing their third straight day game and riding an emotional wave after their big weekend series in the Bronx."I'm as proud of them today as I have been all year," Showalter said of his team. "That's a challenge."Adam Jones had two hits and Nick Markakis reached three times for the Orioles.The Orioles opened the scoring in the second when Manny Machado led off with a fly down the line in right. Fighting the sun and making a long run to the ball, Sierra couldn't come up with the sliding catch and was charged with a three-base error."Obviously Moises had a difficult time with the sun in right," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.Machado scored when Nate McLouth followed with a sacrifice bunt.Baltimore tacked on two more in the fifth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Markakis and Hardy. Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ avoided further damage by striking out Wieters, Mark Reynolds and Machado to strand runners at second and third."They were able to manufacture a couple of runs but he made a number of key pitches to prevent a big inning," Farrell said.Hardy added an RBI single in the eighth.Happ (3-2) allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits in five-plus innings. He walked two and struck out nine.Brad Lincoln came on after McLouth doubled off the wall to begin the sixth. A walk, a sacrifice and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Hardy, but he grounded into an inning-ending double play.The Blue Jays, who were blanked for the seventh time this season, have lost three straight and 11 of 15.NOTES:Toronto recalled LHP Brett Cecil and activated RHP Jason Frasor (forearm) off the 15-day DL. ... The Orioles selected LHP Zach Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk and designated RHP Jason Berken for assignment. Baltimore also recalled RHP Tommy Hunter from Double-A Bowie. ... Blue Jays C J.P. Arencibia (right hand) has begun a rehab assignment at Class-A Dunedin and could rejoin the team by the end of the week, manager John Farrell said. ... The Orioles will recall RHP Zach Britton before Tuesday's game, allowing him to start against Toronto.
Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.
—NFL franchise tag deadline 44
—NFL draft 101
—First Sunday of 2017 season 237
A six pack of thoughts to start out the week
1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.
2. For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now.
3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.
4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.
5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.
More Redskins: The Redskins week that was
6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.
Tandler on Twitter
In case you missed it
- Scouting the playoffs: Free agent targets in Cowboys-Packers
- Possible Redskins free agent targets in Steelers-Chiefs
- The Redskins week that was—Who's going to run the defense?
- Redskins players live tweet wild Cowboys-Packers game
Sunday was a bad day for the Cowboys. They lost their divisional playoff game to the Packers, on a last-second field goal, no less. But then after the game, players and fans couldn't just pack up and go home.
Instead, they got stuck inside AT&T Stadium due to severe weather in the area. Weather forecasts showed potential tornadoes and dangerous flash flooding.
Offseason program started 272 days ago. Training camp started 171 days ago.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) January 16, 2017
Now, tornado warning in the wake of a heartbreaker. What a year pic.twitter.com/b0yz5HZtqT
Dismantling the goal posts 2 hours after game ended. Yes, that is same goal post for Mason Crosby's game winner. pic.twitter.com/yyc6e1W2kF— KristiCowboySideline (@KristiCowboy) January 16, 2017
Dak and Zeke chilling like the rest of us while tornado threat continues pic.twitter.com/vbAK3tYEpK— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) January 16, 2017
There was some silver lining for fans who got stuck, though. They got to see some of their favorite players one more time this season.
Zeke and Dak on field 2 hrs after game. Fans who are sheltering here during storm are chanting "we are proud" pic.twitter.com/JM0lvvV168— KristiCowboySideline (@KristiCowboy) January 16, 2017