By Gregor Chisholm and Brittany Ghiroli
TORONTO -- There's a new team atop the standings in the American League East: the Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto took over the top spot in the division following a 9-1 victory over the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. It's the first time the Blue Jays have been in first place since April 4, which was the second game of the regular season.
Baltimore led by as many as 5 1/2 games on June 29, but it has been evaporating ever since. Boston briefly took over first place earlier this month, and now it's the Blue Jays who have jumped in front after the Orioles lost their fifth consecutive game. The Red Sox dropped to 1 1/2 games back of Toronto pending the result of Saturday night's game against the Angels.
Devon Travis went 2-for-4 with a home run during a seven-run fifth inning while every member of the starting lineup reached base at least once except for Melvin Upton Jr. The Blue Jays scored at least nine runs for the 15th time this season. Lefty J.A. Happ picked up the win after he allowed just one run over seven-plus strong innings.
"It definitely feels good," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said of moving into first place. "We haven't felt that since early April, but we're starting to play some good baseball, and that's really what it comes down to: playing good baseball at the right time. It's definitely something to be celebrated, but there's a lot of season left, and we're looking for a sweep tomorrow."
Designated hitter Pedro Alvarez provided one of the lone bright spots for Baltimore. Alvarez hit a solo homer in the second, but that was the only offense the Orioles could generate off Happ. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo was saddled with the loss as he gave up five runs on five hits and could not pitch his way out of the fifth. Reliever Mychal Givens followed and tacked three more runs onto Gallardo's line and put the O's in a 7-1 hole.
"I got to do whatever I got to do to put a zero on the board. … If I go out there, I go out there. If not, it's not my decision, but the guys behind me have been doing a great job throughout the year," Gallardo said. "It's just one of those things, a lot of times those guys have been able to pick me up. When it's not your day, it's not your day. At the end of the day, it just starts with the walks for me. Walking back-to-back guys, that can't happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Everybody gets a turn: The Blue Jays sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth inning, breaking the game wide open with three doubles, four walks and a solo homer en route to seven runs. Travis started the rally with a one-out solo shot to left-center field. Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin and Pillar followed with RBI doubles. It marked the third time this season Toronto scored at least seven runs in the same inning.
"Devon was the first one … that kind of started everything," Martin said. "Devon put us on the board, tied the game up and then we had some big hits from our big hitters, some tough at-bats and we were able to get a rally going."
Another short start: Fresh off of Kevin Gausman's three innings in Friday's loss, Gallardo fought his way through a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. But he couldn't wriggle free in the fifth and was charged with five runs on five hits and five walks. Gallardo has a 5.70 ERA on the season.
"My command more than anything, falling behind guys in that situation," Gallardo said of the fifth. "I just wasn't able to get ahead of guys, got a little bit away from the game plan I had a little that inning."
Givens was charged with two runs on his own after allowing three inherited runners to score.
"He had a flat breaking ball. He's been a little inconsistent with it when he's gotten into trouble," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Givens. "He's pitched some quality innings for us, and he's capable of a strikeout there. It's part of the game. They're a good offensive team. They make you pay for your mistakes. I think both balls he got hurt with were breaking balls." More >
Piling on: Pillar's second double of the game gave the Blue Jays a 9-1 lead in the seventh inning. Toronto's center fielder finished his day 2-for-4 with four RBIs in his third multi-hit game over his last five. The four RBIs matched his career high, which was previously set on June 2, 2015, against Max Scherzer and the Nationals. Pillar and Travis went a combined 4-for-8 with five RBIs and three extra-base hits on the afternoon out of the No. 8 and 9 spots in the lineup.
"That was a big key in our success last year -- having the guys at the bottom of the order come up with big hits, get on base and turn our lineup over," Pillar said. "The guys at the bottom of the order are guys that typically wouldn't hit at the bottom of other teams' orders. But you look at the guys in front of us and that's just where we fit in this lineup. When our number is called, we're just ready to go." More >
Ondrusek debut: Logan Ondrusek, who was signed to a Major League deal on Friday, made his debut in the sixth inning. The righty, who last pitched in the Majors for the Reds in 2014, recorded one strikeout and had a 1-2-3 frame.
"Think they've just played a little bit better than us here. Try not to look for any reasons beyond they just executed a little bit better." -- Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo, on losing five of six games in Toronto this season
"What I like about this team is the consistency of our starting pitching. I feel like it has been that way all year, and if you want to be on a winning team, that's one of the main things you want to have is pitching. We have that, and we're feeling pretty good about it." -- Martin
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Since June 11, the Blue Jays have scored 252 runs, which is the most in the Major Leagues. Orioles pitching has allowed 45 runs in six games in Toronto this season.
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Baltimore will try to salvage the series with right-hander Chris Tillman at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday. Rogers Centre has been a tough environment for Tillman, who has posted a 7.94 ERA there in 11 career starts, allowing a 1.019 OPS and 19 home runs. This is his first test there in 2016.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (11-1, 2.72 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their three-game series against Baltimore on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. There continues to be talk that Sanchez will eventually move to the bullpen because of an innings limit, but he has allowed more than two earned runs in a start just once since the start of June.