Aday after they were eliminated from the playoff picture, the Orioles fielded a starting lineup Wednesday night more fit for late-February than late-September.
But an Orioles batting order void of a considerable amount of its everyday muscle still managed to record the team's most productive offensive night in a month, snapping a season-high six-game losing streak with a 9-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of a sparse announced crowd of 23,698 at Camden Yards.
Reeling from the sting of missing out on the postseason, the Orioles (82-76) still clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1996 and 1997 with the win.
“Believe me, nobody knows more than I do how these fellas feel about it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the Orioles missing the postseason. “We're disappointed, but I told you many times that one of the most impressive things in team sports to me is people who can consistently be competitive and win.
“We want to be a part of putting something out there that our fans can be proud of and trust and look forward to competitive baseball,” Showalter added. “Now, at some point we want to graduate. … Sometimes, you have to understand where you are in the process."
With starters Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts out of the starting lineup and starting first baseman Chris Davis at designated hitter, the Orioles had their best offensive showing since a 10-3 win over Oakland on Aug. 25. They also snapped a dubious streak of 21 straight games of scoring five runs or less.
The Orioles blasted Toronto pitching for four homers on the night — including second baseman Jonathan Schoop's first major league homer in his big-league debut — as the Orioles added to their major league leading home run total. The club has hit 208 homers this year.
Third baseman Ryan Flaherty — making his second straight start at the position in place of injured All-Star Manny Machado — hit a pair of two-run homers, including a third-inning blast that landed on Eutaw Street, for his second career multi-homer homer game.
Schoop — the Orioles' top position-player prospect — singled in his first at-bat and homered in the sixth inning, becoming the second player in franchise history to homer in his major league debut and first since Larry Haney on July 27, 1966.
“It was very exciting to [get] the first one out of the way, the pressure away from yourself,” said Schoop, who was signed at the age of 16 out of Curacao. “Just take everything away and decide when you are going to hit it and when you see the ball and go for a base hit.”
At 21 years, 344 days old, Schoop became the third-youngest second baseman since 1900 to homer in his major league debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
First baseman Steve Pearce — whose season has been plagued by tendinitis in both wrists — hit his first homer since May 29, a solo homer in the fourth inning that tied the game at 3.
After the Orioles fell behind 3-0, Flaherty hit his first homer in more than a month, a two-run homer that was the 11th to land on Eutaw Street in 2013, extending the single-season record.
Flaherty added another two-run shot in the eighth inning, an opposite-field blast off left-hander Ricky Romero, for his 10th homer of the season.
“Obviously, you wish the circumstances were a little different than they are,” said Flaherty, alluding to the fact that the Orioles won't make the playoffs. “But nonetheless, it's still fun. A win's a win. … Anytime you wear the uniform you got on, it's pride. Whether it's Spring Training or the World Series, a game is a game and you got to go ready to play.”
In his final start of the season, Orioles right-hander Bud Norris lasted just four innings, his shortest outing in nine starts with Baltimore, allowing three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
After recording quality starts in his first two Orioles appearances following a trade-deadline deal with the Houston Astros, Norris has recorded just one quality start in his last seven, and has gone more than 5 2/3 innings just once.
Norris, whose last appearance came Friday in relief when he pitched 2 1/3 innings and took the loss in the Orioles' 18-inning defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays, hadn't made a start since Sept. 8 because of right elbow stiffness.
“For me, it was about getting back out there and prove I can end the season with all the health concerns I've had the last couple weeks,” Norris said. “It was good to get back out there, they had a lot of foul balls. … To get [the elbow issue] out of my head and know I'm still back to 100 percent mentally was good for me.”
On Wednesday, Norris battled a high pitch count throughout the night. He left after throwing 96 pitches.
"Just some counts he couldn't quite finish off,” Showalter said. “He hasn't been out there consistently in a while, [so] I'll give him a mulligan. But he feels real good physically, so that's good to see. He was really wanting to stay in the ballgame, but 95-ish in four innings is plenty of stress on an arm and an elbow."
After Pearce's fourth homer of the season tied the game in the fourth, the Orioles rallied for three runs in the fifth, sending eight batters to the plate to chase Toronto starter Esmil Rogers and break the game open.
After Flaherty was hit by a pitch to open the frame, J.J. Hardy hit a one-out single to center and Nick Markakis' single off diving second baseman Ryan Goins' glove and into right field gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
Davis followed with a ground-rule double — his 95th extra-base hit of the season — that one-hopped the center field fence and scored Hardy. After Pearce was given first base on an intentional walk, Jason Pridie hit a slow roller to first that scored Markakis and gave the Orioles a 6-3 lead.
Rogers was charged with six runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out two and issuing one walk.
After the Blue Jays (72-86) cut the lead to two with a run in the top of the sixth, Schoop — who scored three runs in his debut — took a 2-1 fastball over the heart of the plate and crushed it well beyond the center field fence.
Josh Stinson made his ninth-straight scoreless relief appearance in the sixth inning. Jason Hammel, the Orioles' Opening Day starter, recorded his first save of the season and his fourth of his career after allowing one run over 2 1/3 innings.
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