TORONTO -- It's no longer lonely at the bottom of the American League East standings, where the Baltimore Orioles climbed into a sixth-place tie with a resounding 13-8 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday at SkyDome.
OK, so they're still technically in the cellar, but they shot their way out of seventh place with four home runs and knocked the Blue Jays out of first place in the process.
Joe Orsulak's pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning broke open a wacky one-run game and gave the Orioles their second victory on the three-game weekend trip. But it took all the offense they could muster to overcome another explosive pitching performance from the starting rotation.
Right-hander Jose Mesa gave up eight earned runs over 4 1/3 innings before giving way to relievers Paul Kilgus and Todd Frohwirth. The Orioles scored eight runs over the same period on the way to their biggest offensive output of the season. They finally broke an 8-8 tie with five runs off reliever Duane Ward in the seventh, the bulk of them coming on Orsulak's first career slam.
* Cal Ripken hit his 13th homer to break a 3-3 tie in the third and went on to post his fifth consecutive two-hit game. He raised his league-leading batting average to .359.
* Leo Gomez had three hits -- including a towering two-run homer -- to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He's batting .368 since he was recalled from the Rochester Red Wings on June 6.
* Randy Milligan hit his sixth home run of the year and tied a club record with four runs scored.
* Bill Ripken, who has been suffering from a sore lower back, had two hits and two runs scored in his first appearance in five days.
* Orsulak's game-breaker was the first pinch grand slam given up by a Blue Jays pitcher since Sam Horn hit one on Sept. 14, 1990. Ward served that one up, too.
The Orioles seem to have a thing about first-place teams. They took three of four games from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park a couple of weeks ago to help the Blue Jays get in position to take over the division lead. Now, they have won four of seven against Toronto over the past 10 days.
Perhaps that bodes well for the three-game series that begins tonight against the Minnesota Twins, who have won 15 straight games to take over first place in the AL West.
"I don't think it means that we're getting up for the better teams," manager John Oates said. "I don't think it has anything to do with who we're playing. It's just a matter of who's playing better. But it is nice to see that you can play with anyone."
The Orioles toyed with Blue Jays starter David Wells, who lasted into the third inning before getting thrown out of the game for arguing a borderline pitch with plate umpire Dan Morrison.
The argument only lasted a few seconds, but the ejection couldn't have had much of an effect on the outcome, since Wells was not long for the game at that point. He already had given up five runs and was pitching so poorly that you had to wonder why Oates didn't come out to argue the ejection instead of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.
Nevertheless, Wells might have gotten the best of the pitching matchup with Mesa, who gave up three runs in the first inning and three more in the third before leaving with two runners on in the fifth.
Reliever Paul Kilgus allowed both inherited runners to score, so Mesa was charged with eight earned runs. Frohwirth was the pitcher of record when the Orioles scored five times in the seventh and recorded his first victory as an Oriole. His last major-league win came July 18, 1989, as a member of Philadelphia Phillies.
Frohwirth's performance turned on one pivotal at-bat. He struck out Joe Carter with a runner at third and one out and went on to get out of the jam.
"I wasn't trying to strike him out," Frohwirth said. "I didn't want it to be an all or nothing thing. I figured with the score 8-8 at that point, if I get him to hit the ball in the air, we're only down by a run and we're all right. When I got ahead on the count I went for a nasty pitch and I got it."
It was another in a series of mediocre starts for Mesa, who has an 8.26 ERA in his past eight starts, but Oates said that his place in the rotation is not in danger.
"We've got to get him going," Oates said. "He has one of the top five arms in our organization. We're talking about a guy with great major-league stuff. We have to get him right."
Mesa has been particularly vulnerable in the early innings. He has given up four runs or more before the fourth in three of his past four starts.
"We have been working with him," Oates said. "We've got to find out what's going on. But he's going to keep pitching until we get it right because we don't have them lined up with arms like his."
Orioles-Blue Jays scoring
Blue Jays first: White doubled to left. Alomar sacrificed to pitcher Mesa, White to third. On Melvin's passed ball, White scored. Gruber hit by pitch. Carter doubled to center, Gruber scored. Carter stole third. Mulliniks doubled to left, Carter scored. Olerud walked. Myers grounded into double play, third baseman Gomez to second baseman B.Ripken to first baseman Milligan, Olerud out. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Blue Jays 3, Orioles 0.
Orioles second: Milligan walked. Gomez singled to left, Milligan to second. Melvin doubled to left, Milligan scored, Gomez to third. Hoiles walked. Segui singled to third, Gomez scored, Melvin to third, Hoiles to second. Anderson hit sacrifice fly to center fielder White, Melvin scored. Devereaux grounded into double play, shortstop Lee to second baseman Alomar to first baseman Olerud, Segui out. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 3, Blue Jays 3.
Orioles third: B.Ripken doubled to left. C.Ripken homered to left on 1-0 count, B.Ripken and C.Ripken scored. With 3-2 count on Milligan, Acker relieved Wells. Milligan singled to left. Gomez homered to left on 2-2 count, Milligan and Gomez scored. Melvin struck out. Hoiles flied out to center fielder White. Segui flied out to left fielder Carter. 4 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 7, Blue Jays 3.
Blue Jays third: Alomar doubled to pitcher. Gruber singled to right center, Alomar to third. Carter homered to left center on 0-0 count, Alomar and Gruber and Carter scored. Mulliniks walked. Olerud flied out to center fielder Devereaux. Myers grounded into double play, second baseman B.Ripken to shortstop C.Ripken to first baseman Milligan. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 7, Blue Jays 6.
Orioles fifth: C.Ripken popped out to third baseman Gruber. Milligan homered to left center on 0-0 count. Gomez struck out. Melvin popped out to shortstop Lee. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 8, Blue Jays 6.
Blue Jays fifth: Gruber struck out. Carter doubled to left. Mulliniks walked. Kilgus relieved Mesa. Olerud walked, Carter to third, Mulliniks to second. Myers grounded into fielder's choice, first baseman Milligan to shortstop C.Ripken, Carter scored, Mulliniks to third, Olerud forced at second. Whiten walked, Myers to second. Lee singled to shortstop, Mulliniks scored, Myers to third, Whiten to second. White struck out. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 3 left on. Blue Jays 8, Orioles 8.
Orioles seventh: Ward pitching. B.Ripken singled to center. C.Ripken singled to right, B.Ripken to second. Milligan walked, B.Ripken to third, C.Ripken to second. Gomez singled to left, B.Ripken scored, C.Ripken to third, Milligan to second. Orsulak, pinch hitting for Melvin, homered to right on 0-2 count, C.Ripken and Milligan and Gomez and Orsulak scored. Hoiles popped out to third baseman Gruber. Segui grounded out to third baseman Gruber. Anderson grounded out to first baseman Olerud. 5 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 13, Blue Jays 8.