Orioles have second straight winning season

BALTIMORE - Perhaps some of the sting from being eliminated from postseason play dissipated Wednesday evening, when the Baltimore Orioles ensured themselves a winning record for 2013.
There won't be any October baseball. But thanks to a 9-5 win over Toronto, in front of 23,698 at Camden Yards, the Orioles have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since their playoff years in the 1996-97.
Tuesday's loss to the Blue Jays ended Baltimore's playoff run, and afterward the clubhouse atmosphere was somber. It might not have been champagne-popping time 24 hours later, but the win pleased manager Buck Showalter.
"Believe me, nobody knows more than I do how these fellows feel about it," Showalter said. "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. It's hard, hard to do, because I keep telling you how good the competition is. 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.
"Now, at some point we want to graduate."
Baltimore (82-76) snapped a six-game losing streak and broke out in the process - the Orioles scored more than five runs for the first time since Sept. 2. The 21-game drought equaled the club's longest such streak since 1992, according to STATS.
The Orioles benefited from four home runs - two from Ryan Flaherty, and one each from Steve Pearce and Jonathan Schoop, who made his major-league debut and singled in his first at-bat.
Schoop said he was nervous making his first start, and the second baseman turned heads with his single in the third and a solo shot in the sixth, a deep fly to the seats in center field.
"It was very exciting," Schoop said. "To [get] the first one out of the way, the pressure away from yourself. 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."
Schoop's teammates reveled in his milestone, even if it didn't soothe their feelings with four games remaining.
"We didn't make it to the playoffs. That was our goal," said shortstop J.J. Hardy. "I don't know how much we look at it as, 'All right, we got a winning season. Hurrah, hooray.' But it was fun to watch Schoopy."
Flaherty smacked a two-run home run onto Eutaw Street in the third inning, which cut the deficit to 3-2. With one out in the third, Pearce sent a liner into the seats in left field that tied the game and got Orioles starter Bud Norris off the hook.
Norris lasted four innings and allowed seven hits in his first start since Sept. 8, and his struggles came early.
Toronto (72-86) led 3-0 after three innings thanks to three two-out hits. Jose Reyes had an RBI single in the second, and Anthony Gose added the second with an RBI triple in the third. Josh Thole followed with a single that scored Gose, and Norris was in a hole.
He needed 96 pitches to get through the fourth, but Baltimore's offense made sure he didn't suffer a loss.
Nick Markakis' RBI single in the fifth made it 4-2, and Chris Davis followed with a booming RBI double to center. Davis collected his 42nd double and 137th RBI, which tied him with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for most in the majors.
Flaherty's second homer came in the eighth inning and put the Orioles ahead 9-4. It was Flaherty's second career multi-homer game, and both of them have come against the Blue Jays.
T.J. McFarland (3-1) earned the win with an inning of relief, and the Orioles used five pitchers to secure the victory. Jason Hammel tossed 2 1-3 innings out of the bullpen and picked up his first save since Sept. 11, 2011.
Baltimore closes out its series with the Jays tonight, and then hosts Boston starting Friday for the final series of the year.
"We were playing for something with six games left in the season," Hardy said.
"Obviously the way it turned out is not what we wanted, but with six games left in the season we still had a chance. That's pretty good."

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