Gone, it seems, are the days when the Orioles could scratch and claw and eke out victories in games where the pitching is solid for both sides. These days, they either blow out their opponent or they lose.
That made it tough for rookie pitcher Sean Douglass last night, when he made his best impression of the season and still came away with a loss.
Douglass held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs in seven innings, but the Orioles were the ones slamming their bats and tossing their helmets. Toronto ace Roy Halladay continued his dominating ways, as the Blue Jays claimed a 2-1 victory before 20,928 at Camden Yards.
"The pitching was absolutely on for both teams all night long," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Sean Douglass was outstanding tonight. Halladay was just a little bit better?
With 11 games remaining, the Orioles are mostly looking for positive things to take into next season, so the performance by Douglass made this loss a little easier to swallow, even though it left them 2 1/2 games behind Toronto in their battle for third place in the American League East.
The Orioles are 4-21 in their past 25 games, and all four of their victories in that span have come by at least five runs. The formula that made them so effective early in the season - get an early lead, no matter how small, and hand it to the bullpen - has gone by the wayside.
"Tonight, you've got to tip your hat," Douglass said of Halladay, who is 3-0 against the Orioles this season with a 0.82 ERA. "He pitched great. Ninety percent of the time, you're going to win those games."
With the Orioles trailing 2-0 in the eighth, Marty Cordova finally put his team on the scoreboard with a one-out double, which scored Tony Batista all the way from first base. But Blue Jays reliever Cliff Politte got out of the inning with the lead, getting Melvin Mora to fly to left field and striking out Luis Lopez.
Kelvim Escobar pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 35th save, and the Blue Jays improved to 11-4 on the season against the Orioles. The three games in this series have been played before the three smallest crowds in Camden Yards history 20,279, 20,486 and 20,928.
They will play one more here tonight before concluding their season series with a three-game set next week in Toronto. The Blue Jays took the lead with a run-scoring single by Jose Cruz in the fifth inning and a leadoff home run by Carlos Delgado in the seventh.
Those were the only runs Douglass (0-4) allowed, as he held the Blue Jays to five hits and no walks. It was his first quality start of the season. In his previous six starts this year, he was 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA.
An All-Star this season, Halladay (17-7) held the Orioles to seven hits and two walks, striking out four. The Orioles went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
They had four at-bats in those situations against Halladay, and all came with two outs. Jay Gibbons took a called third strike in the first inning, Geronimo Gil bounced out in the fourth, Mora flied to left field in the sixth, and Jeff Conine popped to shortstop in the seventh.
"It would have been great for [Douglass] to win tonight," Gibbons said. "He pitched great."
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when Blue Jays rookie Josh Phelps doubled into the left-center gap with one out. Phelps advanced to third on a wild pitch by Douglass, on a high throw that bounced off catcher Geronimo Gil's glove.
Cruz followed with a single to right field, scoring Phelps.
The Blue Jays threatened again in the sixth, as Shannon Stewart hit a one-out double to right field. But Eric Hinske grounded to second, and then Vernon Wells hit a chopper that Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick turned into his 500th consecutive chance without an error.
Bordick was replaced by a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, with his streak of 100 games without an error intact. Bordick is one game shy of tying the major-league record for consecutive errorless games by a shortstop set by Rey Ordonez from 1999 to 2000.