TORONTO — Inside a mostly empty Orioles clubhouse Friday night, reliever Tommy Hunter replayed out loud the at-bat that shifted momentum in their 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
“I'm going to throw it again tomorrow,” Hunter said of the 1-1 cutter he threw to Blue Jays light-hitting shortstop Munenori Kawasaki that landed over the right-field fence for his first major league home run. “We'll just come back tomorrow. We're not down. That's definitely not the way we are. We'll bounce back.
“Hopefully, I get in there tomorrow and you'll see the same thing again. So good luck.”
Kawasaki's two-run homer — the last of six homers the teams hit Friday night — tied the game in the seventh inning off Hunter, who hadn't allowed a homer in his last 11 outings.
The Blue Jays went on to win with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in walk-off fashion on Rajai Davis' single off Pedro Strop to seal their ninth consecutive win.
That's just life in the AL East.
“I think they're hot right now,” said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, whose three-run homer in the sixth gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead. “Obviously they're playing good baseball. This was a game we wanted to have to open up the series and maybe break their stride a little bit, but we battled all the way to the end and they were able to come through.”
The Orioles hit three homers off Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, including Davis' majors-leading 27th homer of the season and right-hander Jason Hammel, who missed his last start after battling the effects of a stomach virus gave a gritty effort, overcoming two homers and striking out seven to leave with a two-run lead after six innings.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter watched most of the game from the visiting clubhouse after he was ejected in the second inning by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez for contesting a call in which Hernandez revered a foul-ball call with a strikeout on Davis. It was the first ejection of the year for Showalter. Bench coach John Russell managed the remainer of the game.
The loss dropped the Orioles (42-32) two games back of AL East-leading Boston.
The thorn in the Orioles' side was Kawasaki, the Blue Jays' No. 9 hitter. He drove in three runs, adding a two-out single in the fifth to his first homer in 246 career major league at-bats . A .229 hitter who is only starting because of the ankle injury to shortstop Jose Reyes, Kawasaki has driven in eight of his 17 RBIs this season against the Orioles.
“In the American League up and down the lineups, guys in the American League have power, especially in the American League East,” Showalter said. “That's nothing new. … Mistakes go places other than the outfield grass. Sometimes they go where you can't catch them. They made some mistakes too that we made them pay for.”
The Orioles fell behind early 3-1, but the club's power-driven offense turned the tables quickly in a familiar way.
Davis changed the game on one swing, capping a four-run sixth inning with a three-run homer to left.
Following his two-homer, five-RBI afternoon in Detroit on Wednesday, Davis has eight RBIs and three homers in his past two games. He has homered in four of his past five games and has five homers in that span.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a solo blast in the second, his 15th of the season, and Flaherty hit his third, a solo shot in the seventh that landed in the second deck in right.
“I think it was just trying to continue to put pressure on the other team. Both teams swung the bats well,” Davis said. “I felt like they were matching us swing for swing. When we got a little cushion they came back and put up a couple runs. It was definitely a battle all the way to the end.”
Hammel fell behind 2-0 in the first inning. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Edwin Encarnacion dropped a hit that fell between Flaherty and Nick Markakis in right and bounced over Markakis' head for a double. The next batter, Adam Lind, then hit a two-run homer off Hammel on a 1-2 pitch.
Leading 5-3 after the Orioles' four-run sixth, Hammel battled Encarnacion through a 10-pitch at-bat with one out in the sixth, but Encarnacion won the battle with a solo homer to cut the lead to one. Flaherty later homered to give the Orioles a 6-4 lead.
“Stuff-wise, it was comparable to the best I've had all year,” Hammel said. “I never want to say that a stomach virus helped me, but overall I felt awesome, my body physically, mentally, I felt good today. It was a pretty good outing.”
The play Showalter was ejected on opened the second inning when Davis swung and missed a knuckleball from Dickey on a 1-2 count. The pitch got by catcher Josh Thole and Davis began running to first as if it was a dropped third strike. But Hernandez called the play dead, ruling it a foul ball. Dickey and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons argued with Hernandez, who gathered the umpiring crew together and ultimately called Davis out.
Showalter jumped out of the Orioles dugout and launched into an animated argument with Hernandez before being ejected for the 25th time in his career.
Replays showed that Davis never made contact with the pitch. But Showalter's likely contention was how Hernandez could overrule his initial call and credit a strikeout when he never gave Davis an opportunity to run the ball out. Once Hernandez raised his hands to call the ball foul, it became dead.
“He called a dead ball,” Showalter said. “You can't have an out on a dead ball. It's pretty obvious. … I asked them to reconvene again and be fair. The final result is it's just not fair to the Orioles. It didn't [have] any effect on the game though. I don't know. He might have hit the next pitch out of the park. I don't know.”