By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
11:28 PM EDT, July 12, 2013
The Orioles' three starters in next week's MLB All-Star Game — Chris Davis, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy — have each done their share to carry the offense through the first half of the season.
And on Friday night, the trio combined to drive in all of the Orioles runs — each player hitting a home run to increase the club's major league-leading homer total to 128 — in the Orioles' 8-5 win over the Blue Jays in front of an announced 42,660 at Camden Yards.
In a game that featured the top two home-run hitting teams in the majors, the Orioles blasted Toronto left-hander Mark Buehrle for three homers, including Davis' majors-leading 35th homer of the season.
Davis' two-run blast in the second inning gave him 88 RBIs on the season, breaking Boog Powell's franchise record for most RBIs at the All-Star Break set in 1969. While Davis still has two more games until the break, both players accomplished their totals through 94 games.
While Davis' torrid home run pace has drawn the attention of the baseball world, the contributions of Jones and Hardy have been just as important to the club's first-half success.
“They're a force of consistency for us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Davis, Jones and Hardy. “Not only as players, but as people. I think that's the thing you miss when you're not here, not so much what they do statistically. That's pretty special, but [it is] the consistency they bring and the approach to the game."
The Orioles (52-42) won their third straight game while snapping a four-game losing streak against Toronto. The win also placed the Orioles one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for second place in the American League East standings.
“I think it was huge to get the win tonight with two day games back-to-back,” Davis said, “especially coming off that series with Texas. We want to keep the momentum going into the All-Star break.”
Jones' three-run homer in the third inning gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead, marking the eighth of Jones' 17 homers this season that have either tied the game or giving the team the lead. Hardy added his 16th homer of the season, a three-run blast to left in the sixth that gave the Orioles a five-run cushion and ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.
“These guys grind out at-bats all ballgame long every day,” said Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who overcame a rocky start to win his eighth decision in his last nine. “It's fun to watch. I've said it a hundred times: The quicker you get these guys back in the dugout and in the batter's box, the more is going to happen. I can't say enough about these guys. They go out there and go hard every day.”
Tillman, who had allowed just two homers over his last five starts over a span of 29 1/3 innings, yielded two Toronto home runs through his first three innings on Friday. Both homers against Tillman came with two outs.
J.P. Arencibia gave the Blue Jays (44-48) an early lead with a two-run homer about 10 rows up into the center field bleachers, taking a 93-mph fastball deep on a 1-0 count.
Davis tied the game on one swing, taking a 1-2 pitch from Buehrle the opposite way just over the glove of Toronto left fielder Rajai Davis. Jones opened the inning with a double down the right-field line.
Davis also tied Ken Griffey, Jr. for the second-most homers in AL history before the break, trailing only Reggie Jackson's 37 homers for Oakland in 1969.
The Blue Jays briefly regained the lead in the third inning on Edwin Encarnacion's two-out solo homer, a line drive and left the park in an instant.
Back-to-back two-out singles by Manny Machado and Nick Markakis set the stage for Jones in the third. Jones sat on a 2-2 change up from Buehrle, lifting the ball high into the air and into the left-center field seats.
Hardy blasted a 2-1 pitch into the left-field stands in the sixth, ending a 19-game homerless streak, tied for his longest in his three seasons with the Orioles.
“That was huge,” Davis said of Hardy's homer. “Anytime you can give your pitcher a little bit of room to work, the bullpen doesn't have to be on pins and needles the whole game, it's big for everybody.”
Buehrle (5-6) allowed three homers for the third time this season and his eight earned runs allowed was the most in a start since July 12, 2009 when he pitched for the White Sox.
In the fourth inning, Tillman also received help from Jones and Hardy on defense. With one out, Arencibia laced a ball into the right-center field gap that Jones scooped and rifled to second on the fly in time for Hardy to make a perfect sweep tag as Arencibia slid into the bag head first.
“You won't see a better baseball play,” Showalter said. “My gosh. … That gave me a little 'really?' moment. That is so hard. A lot of people don't even attempt it.”
Tillman battled throughout the night, but held the Blue Jays scoreless following the two early homers. In the fifth inning, he faced two on and no outs, but he struck out Jose Bautista and induced an inning ending double play from Encarnacion.
On his 108th and final pitch of the night, Tillman escaped the sixth inning, stranding a runner on first when he got Arencibia to fly out to center field. He allowed eight hits and one walk on the night and struck out five, including three strikeouts of Bautista.
"I thought he was carrying a pretty good fastball after about the second inning and you could tell he got a little physical with the game and really finished it up pretty strong there," Showalter said.
Right-hander Jairo Asencio, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game, put two on with one out in the seventh, but struck out Bautista and Encarnacion to end the inning.
Tommy Hunter stranded a pair of inherited runners in the eighth, getting Arencibia to pop up to second and inducing a line out from Mark DeRosa, but allowed two runs on a two-out double by Adam Lind in the ninth.
That forced closer Jim Johnson into the game to get the final out. But Johnson needed just one pitch to end the game, retiring Colby Rasmus on a ground out to second to record his 32nd save of the season.
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