TORONTO — Given the way the Orioles and Blue Jays have been scoring runs over the past three days here at the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, both teams realize winning is just a matter of outlasting their opponent offensively.
The teams have combined for 45 runs in the first three games of the series, with the Orioles’ 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon being the lowest offensive total of the series but still a slugfest.
“That’s how it’s been,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, whose eight homers at the Rogers Centre since the beginning of last season are the most by any opposing player in that span. “We come out and put up a couple and then they put up a couple. We’re going back and forth and whoever gets that doughnut first seems like they’ve been ahead. But that’s both offenses. We come out swinging. That’s the beauty of it.”
The Orioles (27-22) have now won four of their last five — all against AL East opponents — and can win their sixth series against the AL East with a victory in Sunday’s finale.
“Even before we came here, to win the series against New York was big to turn it around after we had six in a row that we lost,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has five RBIs in the past two games. “We’ve got to come out and play tomorrow and we know we’re going to have to score a bunch of runs.”
In claiming their AL-leading 16th road win on Saturday, the Orioles have also scored five or more runs in each of their past eight road games, the first time they’ve done that since 1998 (July 19 to Aug. 8), when they scored five or more in nine straight road games.
The Orioles took a three-run lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but held off a late Blue Jays rally as closer Jim Johnson converted his first save opportunity since blowing three straight by retiring Toronto in order in the ninth for his first save since May 10.
The Orioles jumped on reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey for three runs in the first for an early lead.
Dickey, who tossed a complete-game one-hit, shutout against the Orioles last June while pitching for the New York Mets, hasn’t fared well since. In two outings facing the Orioles as a Blue Jay, Dickey is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA, allowing 15 hits and 10 earned runs over 12 2/3 innings with eight walks and eight strikeouts.
The Orioles are also 4-0 when facing Cy Young winners — they also beat reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays twice this season.
On Saturday, the Orioles snapped Dickey’s three-game quality-start streak, scoring six runs on nine hits through 6 2/3 innings. Dickey walked three, struck out four and allowed multiple homers for the fourth time in 11 starts this season.
The Orioles, who had hit 15 homers in their last five games, hit two homers off Dickey on Saturday, including Jones’ solo homer in the seventh that chased Dickey from the game.
Jones has homered in each of the first three games of the series. He also has 19 career homers against the Blue Jays, third-most of any player since the start of the 2006 season.
Designated hitter Danny Valencia hit his second homer in as many games, launching a two-run shot off Dickey in the third to put the Orioles up 5-2.
The Orioles took a 3-0 lead on Toronto in the first inning on Chris Davis’ RBI double and Hardy’s two-run single, both hits coming with two outs in the inning.
“That was big,” Hardy said. “I feel like any time you play in this ballpark, any time you can put runs on the board, it’s big.”
Hardy, who was 2-for-4, has hit safely in 18 of his last 20 games, raising his batting average from .188 to .240 since May 2.
In his fifth start in an Orioles uniform, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia allowed a season-high nine hits and three runs — two earned — over five innings, but didn’t issue a walk. And he managed to earn his first victory as an Oriole.
“When you’re facing a team that’s on top of their game offensively like they are, you’ve got to make them earn it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s a veteran pitcher. He’s going to try to stay out of the center of the plate, he’s going to try to keep you out of the ballpark and he’s going to make you earn what you’re gonna get. There were going to be baserunners today, trust me.”
Garcia, who left the game after throwing a season-high 103 pitches, was aided by his defense in avoiding the big inning. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the game, the Orioles turned a 5-4-3 double play to squash the threat. And in the fifth, with one run in on a Garcia throwing error and runners at the corners with two outs, Chris Davis made a nice diving play on Colby Rasmus’ ball to end the inning.
“I’ve never really pitched good here,” said Garcia, who entered the day with a 6.46 ERA in 11 career games at the Rogers Centre. “I just tried to keep the ball down and I did it. Here the balls carries. They see the ball really good here, so you have to make good pitches keep the ball down.”
For the third straight game, the Orioles bullpen was put to work in the sixth inning.
A three-run lead suddenly became a one-run game in the eighth when the Blue Jays plated two runs on back-to-back two-out run-scoring singles by Munenori Kawasaki and Melky Cabrera, but Darren O’Day induced an inning-ending ground out to short from slugger Jose Bautista.