By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
12:01 AM EDT, May 25, 2013
TORONTO — Rogers Centre might be one of the most difficult sites for a pitcher's introduction to the big leagues. Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman found that out Thursday. There's something about this cavernous dome that makes balls carry — no matter whether the stadium's roof is open or closed.
A day after the Orioles sent Gausman to the mound for his major league debut, the Blue Jays took their turn at looking into their future, trotting out 23-year-old lefty Sean Nolin fresh out of Double-A to make his first big league start.
The Orioles gave Nolin a rude welcoming, chasing him from Friday night's game in the second inning on their way to a 10-6 win.
In their third victory in four games, the Orioles hit four homers, including J.J. Hardy's three-run blast to left off Nolin (0-1) just three batters into the game. It was the Orioles' fourth straight game with three or more homers. Of the team's 25 runs the past four games, 19 have been scored on home runs.
“When we got a ball over the plate it seemed like we didn't miss it,” said right fielder Nick Markakis, who extended his season-high hitting streak to nine games. “That's the main objective of hitting. When you get your pitch don't miss it, especially at this level. We did that in the first few innings.”
The Orioles (26-22) recorded their 15th road win of the season, tying them with the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers for most in the American League. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Orioles have 61 road wins, most in the majors.
Markakis broke the game open with a three-run double into the right-center field gap off Nolin in the second inning, giving the Orioles a 6-1 lead. Nolin left after the next batter. Hitting from the leadoff spot Friday, Markakis reached base in each of his first four plate appearances.
“It's a good thing,” Markakis said, “especially when you're the leadoff guy. That's your main objective, especially with the guys I have behind me. I'm pretty confident in them getting me in.”
Nolan, who lasted just 11 batters, tied the shortest outing (1 1/3 innings) by a Toronto pitcher making his major league debut as a starter.
First baseman Chris Davis opened the third inning with his majors-leading 16th homer, a solo shot off reliever Russ Ortiz. Two batters later, designated hitter Danny Valencia launched a two-run homer into the second deck in left field for his first homer in an Orioles uniform, giving the team a 9-3 cushion.
Adam Jones, who was back in center field for the first time since Monday after being limited to a designated hitter role with a sore right groin, hit his eighth homer of the season to lead off the sixth inning against Brad Lincoln.
Each Orioles starter reached base at least once, six had multiple hits and three had three-hit nights.
“We knew we were going to have to score some runs,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I don't think anybody assumed anything [after the big early lead]. You've got to grind it out. I'm really proud of them grinding it out. Some tack-on runs were big too. We'll take it.”
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tied a 106-year-old record for most consecutive road games with three or more hits (5) by a player under 21, set in 1907 by a 20-year-old Ty Cobb.
“Wow,” Machado said when he was told of the record. “You're talking about Ty Cobb there. It's Ty Cobb. That's all you can say.”
Machado also set a franchise record for consecutive road games with three or more hits, breaking the previous mark of four set by Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Don Buford. Machado has hit safely in 15 of his past 16 road games and is batting .440 (33-for-75) in that span.
Right-hander Chris Tillman (4-2) had his six-game quality start streak snapped, but he managed to hold an opponent to three runs or fewer for the eighth time in 10 starts this season. He allowed three runs on 10 hits over five innings, tying a season high with seven strikeouts while walking none.
Tillman allowed leadoff homers in the first and second innings to Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie, respectively, but he held onto the lead on a night when the ball was carrying with the dome's roof closed. He left after five innings after throwing 109 pitches.
“They put some good at bats up there,” Tillman said. “They changed their approach on me a little bit. They fouled off a lot of good pitches. They're a good hitting ballclub. If you fall behind, they're going to put some good swings on balls, and they did that.”
Tillman also received some help from his defense, particularly Machado, who dazzled with several key defensive plays on the unpredictable artificial turf, none more important than a rally-killing 5-3 double play with two on and no outs in the fifth inning.
“That play Manny made tonight, it was special,” Tillman said. “He's a special kid. He's got great hands, and he's got the feet and smarts to be able to put it to use. I think that's the most impressive part about him. He knows what he's going to do right when the ball is hit -- before it's hit, really.”
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