TORONTO – Balls can fly when the roof of the Rogers Centre is closed, so the Orioles still had plenty of time Wednesday after they fell behind by five runs in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.
And designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who was signed by the Orioles early in spring training, powered the club to a 10-8 comeback win over the Blue Jays with his 11th career multihomer game, including a go-ahead grand slam that capped a six-run fifth inning.
“It wasn't pretty, but we got it done,” Cruz said. “We were facing a really tough lineup on the other side, too, so we [had] to get as many across as we can, and that's what we did tonight.”
After hitting four home runs in their previous 10 games, the Orioles hit a season-high four homers Wednesday as the teams combined for seven in front of an announced crowd of 15,202.
Cruz, who signed a one-year, $8 million contract in February after failing to get the four-year deal he wanted in the offseason, has been the Orioles' top offensive weapon. And his seventh career grand slam, a blast to left field off Blue Jays right-hander Todd Redmond on a 2-1 high fastball, was his biggest blow of the season.
Cruz also hit a solo homer in the third inning against Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan. With five RBIs in the game, he now has 14 RBIs in his past six games and has driven in runs in each of his previous six games.
“It's been good,” Cruz said. “They welcomed me really well and embraced me, which makes it so much easier for me. I feel like I've been here forever. So, it's nice to feel that way.”
The Orioles have seen their own leads disappear in two games this week — and almost in a third — but this time they rallied from an early deficit.
“Assume the position and go along for the ride,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “This is not a place to panic. … I enjoyed watching it. I'd enjoy it a lot more if I knew how it was going to end before watching it.”
Clinging to a two-run lead in the ninth inning, Orioles closer Tommy Hunter loaded the bases with one out before inducing a game-ending double play ball from Jonathan Diaz to convert his sixth save in seven opportunities this season.
Following Cruz's grand slam, the Orioles (10-10) added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI double off the left-field fence by Matt Wieters and a deep sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy that went to the warning track in left field.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman (3-1) allowed seven runs in 52/3 innings, but he was on the verge of a much-earlier exit after allowing six runs in the bottom of the second inning. Tillman grinded out the victory, however, leaning on his off-speed pitches after struggling to locate his fastball.
It marked the sixth time in the past seven games that an Orioles starting pitcher failed to complete six full innings, but Showalter was proud of the way Tillman battled.
“In a lot of ways, it might have been one of his best outings this year, the way we perceive it,” Showalter said. “He doesn't get involved in ERA and whatever. He wants to just give his team the chance to win.”It marked the seventh time in franchise history that a pitcher has allowed seven or more runs and earned the win.
The Blue Jays (11-10) hit a pair of homers off Tillman to build a five-run lead in the second inning, but he still had faith the Orioles could mount a comeback.
“Once I came back in the top of the third, [after] we put up two runs, I knew this was still a ball game,” Tillman said. “From then on out, I knew I just had to get these guys back in the dugout as quick as I could. These guys went out and fought, and I knew we still had a chance.”
Brett Lawrie hit his second three-run homer in as many games in the second inning off Tillman. Two batters later — following a walk to No. 9 hitter Ryan Goins — Jose Reyes added a two-run shot. Edwin Encarnacion's broken-bat single then snuck through the left side of the infield to give the Blue Jays a 6-1 lead.
Chris Davis hit his second home run of the season in the first inning, launching a blast into the second deck beyond the center-field fence.
Tillman allowed his third homer of the night in the sixth inning, when Goins hits a solo shot to right field.
Right-hander Ryan Webb relieved Tillman two batters later and walked Jose Bautista, but he struck out Encarnacion to end the threat.
Matt Wieters, who had three hits in the game, hit his fourth homer of the season in the seventh inning, a solo blast to left field off Toronto reliever J.A. Happ to give the Orioles a 10-7 lead. After giving up a run in the seventh, Darren O'Day pitched a scoreless eighth before Hunter came on for the save.
“We always have a shot, you know?” Cruz said. “We did the right thing, went out there and got a few walks, got some hits at the right time and got the big hit when we needed it. It was nice to support Tillman when he needed it.”
twitter.com/EddieInTheYardCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun