TORONTO -- Fernando Valenzuela pitched the game of his second life last night, but the Toronto Blue Jays just waited him out and then performed their usual late-inning magic on the Orioles.
Valenzuela gave up six hits over eight innings in what clearly was his best performance since 1990, but the Blue Jays scored a run in the ninth to emerge with a 3-2 victory in the second game of the four-game series at SkyDome.
That has become almost routine. The last-inning loss was the eighth the Orioles have suffered in Toronto since the beginning of the final series of the 1989 season. This time, right fielder Darrin Jackson put them away with a one-out single to right field that scored Joe Carter from second base to end the game.
Carter greeted relief pitcher Todd Frohwirth with a leadoff single and Darnell Coles moved the runner into scoring with a perfect sacrifice bunt. Frohwirth jumped ahead on the count to Jackson, but allowed a soft line drive to right to absorb his second loss in three decisions.
The Orioles did not win, but they have been rewarded for their patience in Valenzuela, who has put together back-to-back solid performances to strengthen his position in the starting rotation. The question now is how long he'll have to wait for the Orioles offense to help him get his first American League victory.
"I think this was my best game," Valenzuela said. "Two runs in eight innings. Unfortunately, we didn't win the game."
Blue Jays starter Pat Hentgen did not look like the same guy who had won his last four games, but he was fortunate to run into a team that has not hit well with runners on base. There were runners all over the place during his six-inning performance, but the Orioles did not get a single hit when it counted. They scored one run on a force play and the other on a bases-loaded walk.
The Blue Jays did not have as much to work with, but they did enough of the little things to make the difference and got an outstanding relief effort from middle man Mark Eichhorn. He took over for Hentgen in the seventh and pitched three perfect innings to earn his second victory of the year.
"They did all the things we didn't do," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "They got the bunt down and we didn't. They got the sacrifice fly and we didn't. They also got a couple of squib hits, but that's part of the game."
Valenzuela gave up a couple of early runs, but settled in to build on his performance last weekend against the Kansas City Royals. In his last 14 innings of work, he has given up two runs on seven hits, but has nothing to show for it but an improving ERA (5.64).
He fell victim to a couple of mistakes of his own making in the early innings, but appeared to get sharper as the game went on. He retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced before turning the game over to Frohwirth to start the ninth. But even two runs can be too many the way the Orioles are swinging the bat.
Carter led off the second inning with his second home run of the series. The ball was not hit as well as the 427-foot shot he delivered Thursday night, but it was hit well enough to clear the glove of a leaping Brady Anderson.
It was the ninth home run and 30th RBI of the year for Carter, who entered the game ranked behind only Cleveland Indians outfielder Albert Belle in both statistical categories.
Perhaps the home run was more forgiveable than the mistake that cost Valenzuela a run in the third inning. He walked light-hitting Dick Schofield (.197) with one out and paid for the privilege when Devon White followed with a soft double down the right field line. That put runners at second and third for Roberto Alomar, who brought home the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.
The Toronto hitters were not stingy with their praise of the 32-year-old left-hander they treated so rudely in his final appearance of spring training.
"You try to teach young pitchers to try to pitch inside," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He really pitched inside. He pitched great."
Third baseman Ed Sprague, who came up empty in three at-bats against Valenzuela, didn't figure out until afterward that he had been outfoxed at every turn.
"I was surprised he got me out three times," Sprague said. "Early, he threw the ball well inside and established that cutter [cut fastball]. Then he seemed to lose velocity and he stayed away with the screwball and breaking ball. He was able to maintain control, but the main thing was, he kept guys off balance with that fastball in."
The Orioles had taken the lead in the top of the first against Hentgen, who has been something of a savior for the injury-riddled Blue Jays pitching staff. But he got himself in immediate trouble and was fortunate to get off as lightly as he did.
Hentgen walked Anderson to lead off the game and gave up a single to Mark McLemore to put runners at first and third with no one out. Cal Ripken followed with a sharp ground ball to the right side that had a chance to get through until first baseman Paul Molitor pounced on it and made the force play at second. The run scored, but that was all the Orioles were going to get.