O's strike after passed ball, cap rally vs. Blue Jays
By Brittany Ghiroli and Gregor Chisholm
BALTIMORE -- For the second consecutive night, the Orioles were the beneficiary of a passed ball charged to a Blue Jays catcher, and they rode it all the way to a 3-2 victory on Thursday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The O's won Wednesday night's game when Josh Thole was charged with a passed ball in the 10th inning, allowing the walk-off run to score. The following night, a passed ball by Russell Martin put the go-ahead run in scoring position and sent Baltimore to a series victory over Toronto.
The Orioles and Blue Jays were locked in a 2-2 tie with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Baltimore's Joey Rickard was on first base when Martin had a ball bounce off his glove, which allowed Rickard to move to second. One batter later, Manny Machado hit a little blooper to right off Brett Cecil that fell in front of Jose Bautista, and Rickard raced home to put the Orioles in front by one.
"Obviously they are going to be competing for the division all year, that's a given," manager Buck Showalter said of taking two of three from Toronto. "It's the only time you don't have to count on somebody else to beat them. They are very tough to beat. These were three tough, hard-fought games, one-run games all of them. Small margin for error. Some people say we got fortunate with the hit, but there's also some things we did to set that inning up, too."
The low-scoring affair should have been anything but a pitchers' duel. Toronto went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. Baltimore also struggled in that department by going 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and leaving 13 on base.
"We just have to start grinding and figuring out how to come through," Bautista said. "We're all trying, but it comes to a point where you feel like you're good enough, you've already won the division last year, you have to defend it. We have to play like such and we have to figure it out."
Toronto's Marco Estrada and Baltimore's Chris Tillman each got the start, but neither pitcher factored into the decision. Estrada struggled with his control and a high pitch count, but found a way to get through five innings of one-run ball. Tillman allowed two runs in the first, but eventually settled down and got through six.
"I've struggled in the first inning throughout my career, I think," Tillman said. "Being able to bounce back like that is a big part of it, a big part of my success in the past."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Red-hot combo: The tandem of Rickard and Machado, who each played a role in Wednesday's win, came up big again in the fateful eighth. Rickard singled and raced to second on a passed ball. He scored on Machado's bloop double, giving Baltimore its first lead of the night. Rickard is batting .350 on the season, while Machado is hitting .407.
"It's just try to put the ball in play. It's been a tough series, back and forth, pitching's been good on both sides, and it just gives you a little peek of how the year's going to be," Machado said of the game's ending. "You're going to have to keep battling until the last out."
Wieters tossed: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning for arguing about a checked-swing that home-plate umpire Dan Bellino called a swinging strike three. Wieters was uncharacteristically vocal about his displeasure with Bellino, and he was tossed shortly thereafter. Both of Wieters' career ejections have come against Toronto.
"I don't like to get them, but I said some things I probably shouldn't have," Wieters said. "He just hit a nerve a little bit, especially the checked-swing, because they do have the option to get help. It was just, I thought it was a little bit inconsistent behind the plate for most of the night. As a catcher, first you just want to get pitches for both sides. They were getting a few more. Temper got the best of me and boiled over." More >
Starting early: The Blue Jays applied all kinds of pressure on Tillman in the first inning. Josh Donaldson brought home the first run of the game with a double to the gap in left-center field, and Toronto later loaded the bases in the inning. Justin Smoak then walked to bring in the second run of the frame, and while Tillman was able to escape further damage, he was forced to throw 38 pitches.
"That's what has been missing, the knockout blow early, which we got so many times last year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But last year's over with. We've been looking for a couple of big innings early on, to give us a little breathing room." More >
"If you look at the matchup, there's not many people who haven't had a little success against him [in Toronto's lineup], so after that first inning, it would be easy to go, 'Here we go again.' That wasn't Chris. Chris said, 'I'm going to find a way to get my club to the sixth inning with a chance to win,' and he did. That was probably the key to the game." -- Showalter, on Tillman
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Machado matched his career-high 14-game hitting streak with a first-inning RBI single.
Bautista has now reached base in all 16 of his games this season, and he has a .425 on-base percentage over that same span. Dating back to last year, including the postseason, Bautista has reached base in 30 consecutive games.
PAYING PRINCE RESPECT
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones walked up to Prince's "Purple Rain" as a tribute to the musical legend, who died Thursday.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez gets the call when the Blue Jays open a three-game series against the A's on Friday at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. This will be Toronto's first game this season outside of the American League East after earlier matchups against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Orioles.
Orioles: The Orioles will travel to Kansas City to open a two-city, six-game road trip with a weekend set against the Royals, beginning Friday at 8:15 p.m. ET. Yovani Gallardo will get the Friday night start. Gallardo went six innings against his former team in Texas in his last outing, surrendering four runs and allowing 11 baserunners. The righty, signed to a two-year deal with a club option this winter, has not had a quality start in his first three outings.