The Blue Jays had lost 10 of their previous 13 games at Camden Yards dating back to last season, and were threatened with falling five games below .500 for the first time since June 15 with inexperienced starter Todd Redmond on the mound.
Redmond worked just four innings and surrendered three runs through two turns of the Orioles lineup, which leads the Majors in home runs by a healthy margin. Manager John Gibbons used a quick hook and counted on his bullpen to throw at least five innings.
It was up to the task Saturday, carving up and down the Orioles lineup, and the offense plated a total of five runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead for good. Four relievers combined to pitch five shutout innings in relief of Redmond, including several critical late-inning at-bats with some of the Orioles' biggest bats.
Trailing by a run in the sixth, J.P. Arencibia came through with a two-run single to swing the game back in the Blue Jays' favor for good. The Blue Jays loaded the bases with a trio of two-out singles before Arencibia delivered the big hit to left to grab a 4-3 lead.
"This year's been a little different than previous years, and I think sometimes I've lost my aggressiveness in those situations," Arencibia said. "I've gone back to being aggressive, and it's been working out."
Lawrie, activated from the disabled list before Saturday's game, went 0-for-4 with one strikeout.
The bullpen group comprising Aaron Loup, Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen pitched the final five innings to nail down the victory.
"It was a good ballgame. We fell behind and got the big hit from Arencibia, and then we opened it up late, and our bullpen did what they always do best," Gibbons said. "We bent a little bit today, we just didn't break. They all came in and did a great job."
The Jays added three runs in the seventh inning for good measure, as Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus all had RBIs. But Arencibia said the game never felt in hand until it was over, given how many sluggers the Orioles boast.
"With any team, especially with this one, the way they swing the bats aggressively, it will change the game quick, especially with the top of that order," Arencibia said. "All of them can hit the ball pretty far. If you make mistakes and guys ahead of them get on base, they're definitely one pitch away from tying the game up."
On Friday, Gibbons talked about how hitter-friendly Camden Yards can be. Friday the two teams combined for five home runs, and all 11 runs were scored on the long ball. The slugfest continued Saturday, with three more home runs, but this time the Blue Jays wound up on top. All three homers hit Saturday came off the bats of American League All-Stars.
Edwin Encarnacion crushed a no-doubt-about-it home run to left-center in the first. His 25th of the year left the ballpark so quickly that neither the left fielder nor the center fielder bothered to turn and chase it.
Chris Davis joined in on the homer action with one out in the second, hitting an opposite-field solo shot, his Majors-leading 36th of the season, off Redmond to left-center. That cut the Blue Jays' lead to 2-1.
Adam Jones pulled the Orioles into a tie in the fourth, with a solo homer to left off Redmond, who then hit Davis on his left foot. Redmond retired the next two batters, but Brian Roberts smacked a double high off the right-field scoreboard to drive in Davis from first for a 3-2 Orioles lead.
Redmond had a short leash in part because Gibbons said he knew he could ride his relievers with the four-day break upcoming.
"Knowing with the All-Star break coming up, those guys have been used pretty good this year, but with one more game before the break, we knew we could do that today," Gibbons said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who is meticulous with his bullpen planning, took notice.
"They've got a good bullpen. Once they got the lead there, they can really match up with you," Showalter said.
Cecil pitched around a pair of one-out baserunners with a strikeout. Then Steve Delabar came in to face J.J. Hardy with two outs. Delabar retired Hardy, and combined with Casey Janssen to pitch a scoreless ninth inning.
Two runners got on, but none crossed the plate, and Janssen picked up his 18th save and his first since June 22, a span of exactly three weeks. His previous save came during a sweep of the Orioles at Rogers Centre in the final weekend of Toronto's 11-game winning streak.
Since that time, the Blue Jays have gone 7-12, and will enter the All-Star break with a losing record for the eighth consecutive season, regardless of the outcome of Sunday's series finale.