BALTIMORE—The Orioles began this crucial three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays trailing the American League East leaders by three games.
After Toronto’s 5-1 win over the Orioles before 15,532 at Oriole Park on Monday night, the Blue Jays (75-56) now lead the East by four games. That’s the biggest deficit of the year for the Orioles (71-60).
School, which had already begun in many parts of Maryland earlier in the month, began in Baltimore on Monday, and a large crowd was not expected, even for a big game.
The crowd was actually the smallest since the Orioles and Kansas City Royals drew 14,878 on June 6.
Many of those who were on hand were Blue Jays fans who had much to cheer about.
Marco Estrada (8-6) allowed just one run on J.J. Hardy’s third inning home run and four hits in seven-plus innings. It was Hardy’s eighth home run of the year. Estrada exited after Hardy led off the eighth with a single.
“I don’t think it’s just tonight. We’ve had trouble with him for a while. He locates his pitches, kind of right on the top. His fastball is sneaky. He can elevate it. He can pitch down with it, and his changeup is a really tough pitch,” Hardy said.
Manager Buck Showalter observed just before the All-Star Game how impressed he was with Estrada, who was named to the AL All-Star team, but unable to participate because of back soreness.
“He’s one of those guys, he’s been doing it for two years, really. He’s one of those guys you know what he’s going to do and he’s still able to do it,” Showalter said.
The lead was short lived as Josh Donaldson, the first Blue Jay to reach base after Wade Miley retired the first 10, homered. It was Donaldson’s 34th of the season.
Troy Tulowitzi singled later in the inning to drive in Edwin Encarnacion for a 2-1 lead.
Jose Bautista hit his 16th home run to begin the sixth.
Miley (8-11) had five 1-2-3 innings, and allowed three runs on five hits in the other two innings.
“Wade was good. Mixed in a lot of different looks and gave us a good chance. A good seventh inning to get one more inning out of him,” Showalter said. “He had a real good chance to win the game. We just didn’t do much against Estrada,” Showalter said.
Miley, who works more quickly than any other starter in the majors, walked two and struck out nine, six of them called.
He was helped out in the first inning when Nolan Reimold, playing center field in place of the ailing Adam Jones, ran down Donaldson’s long fly, crashed into the wall and fell, but quickly go up.
“I felt like I threw the ball a lot better. Had a lot better command of my fastball. Made a couple of mistakes to Donaldson. Both the first at-bat and the second at-bat. I got lucky on the first one. Reimold made a great play out there. The second one, I just didn’t locate the fastball,” Miley said.
“I think the umpire had a good strike zone. Maybe a little more pitcher friendly. But he was consistent on both sides. He was great. Obviously it’s a great lineup over there. You don’t really get a lot of breaks, just got to make some pitches.”
Jones has missed three games because of a strained left hamstring, and he’s nearly ready to return. Jonathan Schoop batted leadoff for the first time in his career, and was hitless in four at-bats.
Joe Biagini relieved Estrada after Hardy’s single, and retired all three batters he faced.
Toronto added two runs in the ninth off Tommy Hunter, pitching in Baltimore for the first time since July 30, 2015. Justin Smoak’s RBI single and Devon Travis’ infield out scored the runs.
Joaquin Benoit retired all three batters he faced in the ninth.
Two weeks ago, the Orioles were tied for the AL East lead, but since then they’ve lost nine of 14 and four games in the standings.
“Obviously these games are important, but we’ve just got to go out there and not put too much pressure on ourselves. They’re big games, but we’re just going to go out there and try to win,” Hardy said.
“I know everyone in this clubhouse knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we’re not going to give up. We’re going to go out there every single night trying to win, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
NOTES: Neil Berry, believed to be the oldest living Oriole, died last Wednesday at 94. Berry played five games for the first Orioles team in 1954. … J.A. Happ (17-4, 3.19) faces Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11, 6.62) on Tuesday night.
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