HR burst in first: Jays within nose of O's

HR burst in first: Jays within nose of O's

TORONTO -- The battle for first place in the American League East is officially on after Toronto pulled within a half-game of the Orioles on Friday night. The Blue Jays inched even closer to the top spot in the division after a 6-5 victory over Baltimore at Rogers Centre.

Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki all homered, and the Blue Jays are now closer to first place than they have been at any point since the second game of the regular season.

Right-hander Marco Estrada picked up the victory for Toronto after he allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks over six innings. The Blue Jays then turned things over to their new-look bullpen, as setup men Joaquin Benoit and Jason Grilli bridged the gap to closer Roberto Osuna.

Osuna gets the save

"That was really a typical Baltimore-Toronto type game over the last couple of years," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Two teams that really slug it out … and typical tight games like we normally play."

Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo had a two-run double in the loss while Manny Machado went 1-for-2 with a solo homer and three runs scored. Right-hander Kevin Gausman took the loss after he surrendered six runs on six hits and three walks over just three innings, which matched a season low previously set on June 15 at Boston.

"It's obviously very frustrating," said Gausman. "This is obviously a big series for us right now, so for me to go out there and not even be competitive was bad."

Baltimore has been in first place for most of June and July with the exception of a couple of short stints by Boston. But the Orioles have now lost four consecutive games, and after leading by as many as 5 1/2 games on June 29, the division now appears to be completely up for grabs.

Gibbons on Estrada's outing

The hat trick: Bautista, Encarnacion and Tulowitzki all went deep in the bottom of the first inning off Gausman. It was the second time this year and the 35th time in franchise history that Toronto homered three times in the same frame. The last time it happened in the first inning was on June 24, 2009, courtesy of Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells and Adam Lind. According to Statcast™, Bautista's 13th of the year was projected to travel 422 feet, Encarnacion's 28th of the year was projected to go 414 feet and Tulowitzki's 17th of the year came in at 394 feet.

"We're just trying to be aggressive," Encarnacion said through an interpreter. "We always put the work in and it worked for us today." More >

Encarnacion's solo long ball

Three is (not) the charm: Gausman -- who hadn't allowed three homers in a start since May 31-- allowed three in the first inning. He was only able to get through two more frames, charged with six runs in the disappointing outing.

"You saw it in the first inning -- they have a lot of power and have guys who are known throughout the league for hitting home runs. So if you don't have your 'A' game they are going to let you know," Gausman said. "From pitch 1 to pitch 80 after the third inning, which is ridiculous, I was just all over the place. I had no feel for anything. I felt bad for Wieters, I was kind of beating him up back there." More >

Gausman fans Donaldson

Taking advantage: The Blue Jays and Orioles were tied at 3 in the bottom of the third when Toronto took advantage of some sloppy work in the field. Michael Saunders hit a slow dribbler in front of the plate and catcher Matt Wieters came out to field the ball but then threw it down the right-field line. That put runners on second and third with nobody out, and the Blue Jays went on to score three in the inning. Tulowitzki had an RBI groundout while Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar each added RBI singles.

Martin's RBI single

Manny's hustle: Machado scored all the way from first base on a wacky groundout play in the third inning. Machado, who had rounded second on Davis' out, drew a throw across the diamond from first baseman Justin Smoak that bounced out of catcher Martin's glove on an attempted tag while he covered the bag. The ball skipped away from Martin and no one was covering the plate, leaving room for Machado to hustle home.

"It is something we talk about all the time," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That is one of the challenges of running shifts. You've got to be really proactive and think about [it]. ... They work on it. Sometimes the play, it's tough to cover all of them. It was a good heads-up play." More >

Must C: Machado's baserunning

"Obviously, that back thing is still there. It's lingering and I don't feel 100 percent yet, but I feel like I can still give the team some innings, some quality innings. Early on it's tough, but once I loosened up later in the game I was able to pitch a little better. Just have to find a way to get my back loose early on."
-- Estrada, who was on the DL with soreness in his lower back earlier this month

Estrada fans six in outing

Bautista led off the game with a home run for the third time this season and the seventh time of his career.

Bautista's solo homer

The Blue Jays have 65 quality starts this season, which is tied with Washington for the most in the Major Leagues.

Toronto manager John Gibbons used his challenge in the top of the seventh following a close play at first. Pedro Alvarez hit a slow grounder to first that was fielded by Smoak, who threw the ball to Benoit for the attempted out. The problem was that Benoit's foot appeared to miss the bag and umpire Jim Reynolds called Alvarez safe. Toronto asked for a review, but it proved to be inconclusive and as a result it was ruled that the play on the field stands.

Blue Jays challenge safe call

Orioles: Yovani Gallardo will take the ball for the Orioles for the middle game against Toronto on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET. Gallardo will try to carry forward the progress he made in his most recent start, perhaps his best in an Orioles uniform. The veteran held Colorado to two runs over 6 2/3 innings, tying a season high with six strikeouts.

Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (13-3, 3.27 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Happ has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts, with a sparkling 1.48 ERA over that span.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.