The Orioles came to Toronto this week riding the momentum of eight wins in their previous 11 games and were fresh off taking two of three in Detroit.
That momentum was crushed over the weekend here at Rogers Centre, and after the Orioles' 13-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon, they couldn't wait to get their passports out and get out of Canada.
In allowing a season high in runs Sunday, the Orioles (42-34) were swept in a three-game series for just the second time this season and the first time on the road as the Blue Jays won their 11th straight game; the streak is the longest in the majors this season and the best since the Tigers won 12 in a row in 2011.
“We've faced really hot clubs on the road and at home, and we will again,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We haven't played half the season yet. Nothing is unexpected. You look at the track record of their players and that's why you acquire guys like that, because you know what you're going to get eventually. I think you're seeing some of that happen.”
The game was played in front of an announced sellout crowd of 45,214, the Orioles' largest road crowd of the season.
Before Sunday, seven of the previous nine games between the Orioles and Jays had been decided by two runs or fewer, including each of the previous four games. But the Blue Jays made Sunday's game a rout quickly.
Right-hander Freddy Garcia lasted just 21/3 innings, the shortest outing by an Orioles starter this season. He was blasted for seven runs as the Blue Jays ran out to a 9-0 third-inning lead.
The Blue Jays' summer surge up the American League East standings has made the division race tighter than ever.
At day's end Sunday, the Orioles arrived home still in second place, two games back of the division-leading Red Sox. The five teams in the division are separated by just five games, all with records of two games above .500 or better.
“It's good for this division,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “It has added even more competitiveness. Everybody is above .500, everybody is grinding. Let's just see how all the cards fold in the next coming months. … We ran into a team that came in here on an eight-game winning streak. It shows that this division is getting better. It's heating up.”
Still, the Orioles have seen more than enough of the Blue Jays, who have beaten them four straight times.
Sunday's loss was the ugliest. The top three hitters in the Blue Jays lineup — Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — combined to drive in nine runs. Eight of the nine Toronto starters had at least one hit.
All series, everything seemed to go Toronto's way, as it did early in Sunday's game. Garcia retired the first two batters he faced, then gave up a broken-bat single by Encarnacion. Adam Lind then hit a come-backer up the middle that the Orioles predicted perfectly with a shift that placed shortstop J.J. Hardy right behind the second-base bag.
But Garcia reached out to make a play on the ball, which hit his glove and deflected between Hardy and second baseman Ryan Flaherty and into the outfield. After walking Colby Rasmus, Garcia hit J.P. Arencibia with the bases loaded, scoring a run.
The one run in the inning wasn't as damaging as Garcia's total of 32 pitches.
“It's hard for me, man, because I was feeling really good,” Garcia said. “I was feeling good out of the bullpen. In the first inning, I was feeling really good. I had my stuff going. … Ground ball to me and my glove fell down. I don't know how. The glove fell down when the ball hit me. I should have gotten out of the inning with no runs right there. After that, I guess they hit everything.”
The Blue Jays (38-36) scored three more off Garcia in the second inning, capped by a two-run homer by Encarnacion. Garcia wouldn't make it out of the third after allowing a single to Arencibia and back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio. Toronto would score five runs in the inning, including a two-run double by Encarnacion off reliever T.J. McFarland.
For Garcia, it was the latest episode in a troubling trend. For the second time in his past four starts, Garcia allowed six or more runs and lasted three or fewer innings. Over his past four starts, Garcia has a 10.80 ERA and has allowed nine homers over 162/3 innings.
Asked whether Garcia would make his next scheduled start Friday against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, Showalter didn't offer any answers.
“Just like always, we look at ways of putting our best foot forward,” Showalter said. “Freddy's done some good things and he's been challenged other times, so he's not the only one.”
After the game, Garcia, 36, seemed to realize he's on a slippery slope.
“I'm not in a situation where I can take [anything] for granted,” he said. “I need to pitch better than that. … I know for sure. I've been in the game so long. I know I need to pitch better. It's all my fault, my bad. I [didn't] pitch the way I wanted to pitch.”
The only highlight for the Orioles was second baseman Ryan Flaherty, who recorded his first multi-homer game and drove in three runs from the No. 9 spot.
Flaherty chased Toronto starter Josh Johnson, who allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings, from the game in the seventh by hitting a two-run homer to right on a 92 mph fastball on a 0-1 count. He added a solo shot off Dustin McGowan in the ninth. Flaherty had three homers in the series.
Before the Blue Jays' offensive onslaught, the Orioles had a chance to orchestrate a rally of their own in the first inning with runners on second and third three batters into the game, but Jones chased sliders from Johnson out of the zone twice as he struck out. After the game, he called the at-bat his worst of the season.
“I got to get the guy in,” Jones said. “Take the freaking walk. But hey, I'm going up there aggressive trying to get the guy in and was unable to do it.”
After that, the Blue Jays intentionally walked first baseman Chris Davis, who has hit 12 homers against them since the beginning of the 2012 season, and then induced a foul pop-up from Matt Wieters to end the inning.
“Every time you turn on the highlights, he's doing some damage somewhere,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said of walking Davis. “We've seen plenty of that. That's key, getting out of that first inning without any runs. He's pretty good — it doesn't take much for him to flip one into the seats.”
The Orioles welcomed the end of the series, one in which Showalter was ejected from the first game, reliever Darren O'Day and Bautista engaged in a two-day war of words, and controversial calls weren't hard to find.
“We've had some things go for us,” Showalter said. “You look at it and sometimes you're on the short end of a lot of close calls. Sometimes that works out towards you. A lot of things, you make your own breaks. It was a challenge for us here but we'll turn the page. We're in the process of turning it right now as soon as I get through talking to you.”
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