Orioles tie Yanks for first place in AL East with rout

Orioles tie Yanks for first place in AL East with rout

Orioles tie Yanks for first place in AL East with rout
TORONTO -- After shutting out the Blue Jays for the second consecutive night -- and getting a little help from the Rays -- the Orioles have clawed all the way back into a September tie for first place in the American League East for the first time since 1997.

While the Orioles (76-59) were busy pounding out a season-high 18 hits in a 12-0 romp over the Blue Jays, the Rays dropped the Yankees, 5-2. The Orioles will host the Yankees for a pivotal four-game set at Camden Yards, starting Thursday.

Britton tossed seven shutout innings, while six Orioles had multi-hit efforts, including Mark Reynolds, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning and drove in four.

"It's nice to be there now, but it's not our goal. Our goal is to be there at the end of the year," said All-Star catcher Matt Wieters.

Britton was dominant again, allowing four hits while striking out eight to win his fourth consecutive start and improve to 5-1 on the season.

The 24-year-old, who guided the Orioles to their third shutout in their past eight games, has a 0.94 ERA during his four-game winning streak and a 29-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Britton's effort came one start after punching out a career-high 10 against the White Sox. Only once did the Blue Jays manage to get two runners on base against him in the same inning, and that came after Britton intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion in the third.

"We're on a good roll, but I think our heads are in the right spot. We're not looking too far ahead, we're focusing on the moment," Britton said.

Wieters feels that Britton's recent success has been due to his ability to get ahead of batters and attack the strike zone with quality pitches. Britton only threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of 27 batters, but Wieters said his movement is so good that he can get back in counts easily by getting guys to chase.

"I think when he misses a few times, he's able to adjust and make a good pitch -- it's not just sort of aim for the middle, he's able to hit a good spot," said Wieters, who went 1-for-4.

The lefty dominated the Blue Jays -- a night after Joe Saunders took a perfect game into the sixth -- over a season-high 108 pitches. The pair weren't even a part of Baltimore's rotation to begin the season.

"We were able to sign some more pitchers and we've added pitchers as the year has gone on," Wieters said. "You are never going to be able to go through a whole season with your staff all the way intact.

"That's why the depth we were able to have in Spring Training has helped carry us where we are today."

Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva was locked in a duel with Britton until the Orioles got to him in the fifth inning.

Adam Jones, who went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, led off with a ground-rule double to right and Chris Davis walked two batters later to put two on with one out for Reynolds.

Villanueva fell behind 1-0 before Reynolds deposited an 81-mph changeup over the fence in left for his 17th homer of the season to put the Orioles ahead 3-0.

"It wasn't the pitch I wanted, but he put a good swing on it, he's obviously powerful," said Villanueva, who lasted 6 2/3 innings, was charged with six earned runs and fell to 7-5 on the season. "It was a little high and he took advantage of it."

It was Reynolds' ninth homer since July 30. After going 3-for-4 with four RBIs, he has 20 RBIs and a .301 average over that stretch.

"I'm not even thinking. I'm just going out, seeing the ball and hitting it," Reynolds said about his recent surge.

Baltimore added one more in the sixth and three runs in the seventh before scoring five in the eighth to match its season high of 12, also done June 14 against the Pirates.

"We've got too many bridges to cross, too many things to do, to accomplish the goal everybody had coming out of Spring Training," manager Buck Showalter said. "We're trying to stay in the moment, stay in what's important and keep a grip on reality."

Rookie Manny Machado had a career-high three hits, while Nick Markakis added three as well, including a pair of doubles.

"We know what we need to do, we have to take it game by game," said Markakis, who raised his team-leading average to .304. "We can't be worrying about other people, we still have a lot of baseball left to play. It's one game at a time from here on out."

Davis, who also had a three-hit night, continued his assault on Blue Jays pitchers this season. He's batting .429 with seven of his career-high 23 homers coming against Toronto.

The Orioles have won three straight, 21 of their past 29, and an AL-leading 39 games on the road.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.