Blue Jays drop series opener against Orioles
Toronto starter J.A. Happ said he tried not to concern himself about what pitching counterpart Joe Saunders was doing on the mound.
That proved impossible, as Saunders put in a dominating performance. He went five innings without allowing a base runner and surrendered just three hits as the Baltimore Orioles blanked the Blue Jays 4-0 Monday.
"You try not to think about it but when you're out there you kind of know," Happ said. "You just want to give us the best chance you can but sometimes you try to do a little too much and be a little too fine. But I tried to stay aggressive.
Saunders' perfect game bid ended with two out in the sixth inning when Adeiny Hechavarria singled to centre. By then the Orioles had control of the game.
"You try to keep making pitches, you try not to think about it out there," Saunders said. "I just hung a changeup to the nine-hole hitter."
Saunders (7-11) held the Blue Jays to three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings in his second start for the Orioles since they traded right-hander Matt Lindstrom to Arizona for him on Aug. 26.
He lost his first start for the Orioles 8-1 to the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 29, allowing 10 hits and seven runs (six earned).
"Today he settled in a little bit more," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "He was definitely in control the whole game and was able to mix in different off-speed pitches."
Saunders' pitching and two runs batted in by J.J. Hardy gave the Orioles (75-59) their 20th victory their past 28 games. They are second in the American League East and have moved to within one game of the first-place New York Yankees, who lost 4-3 to Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jays (60-74) are last in the division.
"When I got traded over here they had a great thing going," Saunders said. "You just want to come over here and contribute as much as you can. You don't want to mess it up and get blown up a lot."
Happ (10-11) stayed aggressive enough to strike out nine batters in five-plus innings. He allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in dropping to 3-2 since joining the Blue Jays from Houston in a July 20 trade.
"Their guy threw the ball real well," Happ said. "I was trying to be pretty selective in the pitches I threw to keep us in the game as best as I could. They chased me out of there quicker than I would have liked."
The Orioles scored a run in the second on a sacrifice bunt by Nate McLouth. It scored Manny Machado who wound up on third after his fly ball down the right-field line eluded a sliding catch attempt by Moises Sierra who lost sight of the ball in the sun. Sierra was charged with an error.
Happ allowed four consecutive hits and two runs to open the fifth before striking out the next three batters as the Orioles took a 3-0 lead.
Robert Andino led off with a single and scored on a double to left by Nick Markakis. Hardy doubled for another run and stopped at third on a single by Adam Jones.
"A long fifth inning, a 36-37 pitch inning, that seemed to take a lot out of him," Jays manager John Farrell said. "They were able to manufacture a couple of runs but he made a number of key pitches in that inning to prevent a big inning."
Brad Lincoln replaced Happ after Machado led off the sixth with a double. Lew Ford walked and Andino sacrificed the runners to second and third. Markakis walked and Hardy bounced into a double play to end the inning.
"I thought when he come for the sixth after the double to McLouth it was pretty evident the fifth inning had taken its toll," Farrell said.
Luis Ayala replaced Saunders with the bases loaded in the seventh and ended the inning on a strikeout of Sierra and a fly out by Jeff Mathis.
"He had some sink action to his fastball," Farrell said. "We made a lot of early outs particularly in those early and mid innings. He threw a changeup to right-handers to slow them down. But we didn't put many good swings on some pitches and he stayed out of the middle of the plate for the most part."
The Orioles scored a run in the eighth against left-hander Brett Cecil, recalled from triple-A Las Vegas. Cecil hit McLouth with a pitch to start the inning, walked Andino with one out and allowed Hardy's run-scoring single with two out.