O's drop finale to Blue Jays on eve of Yanks' series

O's drop finale to Blue Jays on eve of Yanks' series

O's drop finale to Blue Jays on eve of Yanks' series
TORONTO -- The Orioles' taste of first place in the American League East was short-lived after failing to complete a three-game sweep against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

But the Orioles will head home with their heads held high. They will have an opportunity to overtake the Yankees during a pivotal four-game series at Camden Yards, starting Thursday.

Miguel Gonzalez faltered in the seventh inning on Wednesday, as the Blue Jays put four runs on the board to break open a tie game and the Orioles couldn't recover, falling 6-4 in front of 14,458 at Rogers Centre.

"We've had it the last couple days but today they got it," said Adam Jones, who recorded his third consecutive multi-hit game. "[Lousy] on our side, but that's the game of baseball. So move on, keep going, we got the Yankees tomorrow.

"Let's go home, we have business to handle."

Baltimore, which won its fourth consecutive series and finished its road trip 4-2 despite the loss, now trails the Yankees by one game. Thursday's series opener will mark the first of four remaining games against New York.

The players are looking forward to returning home to an excited fan base, searching for its first postseason appearance since 1997.

"When that place is sold out with Orioles fans, it's a great atmosphere," said Mark Reynolds, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth, his 18th of the year and sixth in as many games. "I'm actually a little nervous out there playing in front of so many people.

"It's fun, I'm looking forward to it. This whole weekend should be a great time."

The Orioles looked poised to win their fourth straight game, until the Blue Jays strung together a seventh-inning rally.

With the game tied at 2-2, and after Gonzalez retired 11 of 12 batters following a solo homer by Rajai Davis in the third, the right-hander ran into trouble.

Gonzalez allowed a leadoff double to Yunel Escobar, who was moved to third on a bunt single by Kelly Johnson. After getting Yorvit Torrealba to pop up, Gonzalez faced Adeiny Hechavarria with runners on the corners and one out.

Like Johnson, Hechavarria laid down a bunt, and as Gonzalez went to field the dribbler, Escobar broke for home and scored, as Gonzalez was unsuccessful in his attempt to flip the ball to the plate with his glove.

"It was a little tough. I thought I had it but it just didn't go my way," said Gonzalez, who fell to 6-4 and saw his ERA climb to 3.62.

Gonzalez was then removed in favor of reliever Luis Ayala, who proceeded to allow back-to-back singles, the second of which by Davis cleared the bases and put Toronto ahead, 6-2.

The 28-year-old Gonzalez lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits while striking out four.

It marked the second straight start that Gonzalez has worked into the seventh inning -- and fifth in his past seven -- after he struck out a career-high nine batters in a win over the Yankees in his last outing.

Gonzalez, who thought his split-finger was the key over his first six frames, only had the one bad inning and was otherwise effective against Toronto. While disappointed about the loss, Gonzalez is looking forward to the weekend clash.

"It's going to be fun playing against the Yankees," said Gonzalez, who won't start in the series. "Obviously, we're in a battle. I'll be cheering. I'll be on the bench pumping guys up."

Baltimore tried to mount a comeback in the eighth, putting two runners on with one out for Lew Ford, who hit into an inning-ending double play. That came after Ford hit a ball down the left-field line that third-base umpire Laz Diaz called foul, which brought manager Buck Showalter out to argue, to no prevail.

"Some people saw a replay and said it was fair, the guy that mattered said it was foul," Showalter said.

The Orioles got on the board first, as Jones started the second inning by hitting a 2-1 fastball from starter Brandon Morrow for a solo homer. It was Jones' team-leading 27th home run of the season.

Manny Machado hit an RBI groundout later in the second that scored Matt Wieters to put Baltimore in front, 2-0.

Morrow settled down after that and went six innings, allowing just the two second-inning runs on three hits while striking out six.

"Morrow, for me, is one of the best pitchers in the league," Reynolds said. "He's tough man. He runs it up there 96 or 97 [mph] with a nice, hard slider."

It was Morrow's third start since an oblique strain forced him to miss over two months. He lowered his ERA to 2.94 in the no-decision.

"Just to kind of regain the same confidence and feeling, especially with the secondary pitches that I had earlier in the season," Morrow said of his goal for the rest of the year. "I'm feeling that now, I'm feeling like I came back in pretty much the same spot."

Johnson hit an RBI double in the bottom of the second that snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak by Orioles pitchers, which included back-to-back shutouts against Toronto over the first two games of the series. It was their third-longest scoreless streak of the season.

The six runs allowed marked just the third time the Orioles have allowed more than three runs in a game in their last 11 contests.

Baltimore has lost seven straight season series at Rogers Centre dating back to 2006 and are 17-47 over that stretch.

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