Toronto -- The Orioles had runners on third with less than one out in every inning from the third through the sixth last night. In the fourth and fifth innings, they left the bases loaded.
Against the top hitting team in the league, it figured to catch up to them, but despite some anxious moments, it never did.
Kris Benson's evening ended after he got out of a jam in the sixth inning. With men on first and third and two outs and the Orioles leading by two runs, Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun hit a deep liner that Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis ran down at the warning track. Benson allowed five hits and three runs, all on two Alex Rios home runs. He improved to 7-5 and got his first victory since May 19.
"I felt like I was on the right track. I just didn't get a win." Benson said of his four-start drought. "Those things you can't control. I definitely needed to get a little bit of run support to day just to take the pressure off."
Hernandez gave the Orioles a 6-3 lead with a bases-empty homer in the seventh off Toronto reliever Scott Schoeneweis. Hernandez's 10th home run and third hit of the evening traveled an estimated 428 feet over the center-field wall.
More importantly, it gave his doubting club a lift.
"I think Ramon's home run there was a big one for us." said manager Sam Perlozzo. "It kind of made everyone relax a little bit.
Todd Williams pitched a scoreless seventh and LaTroy Hawkins did the same in the eighth, retiring the Blue Jays' No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters, all on ground balls. Chris Ray came on in the ninth and gave up a bases-empty homer to Zaun, but hung on for his 16th save in 16 opportunities.
Last night represented the fourth time this season that Benson opposed Toronto rookie Casey Janssen (5-4). Benson was 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in the first three games against Toronto, but did fall to Janssen and the Jays in the last meeting.
Janssen has been a different pitcher since losing to the Orioles in his first two major league starts. Since, he had given up four runs or less in all seven of his outings entering last night. He held the Orioles to six hits and one earned run over six innings last Wednesday, extending his unbeaten streak to five games. But last night he yielded five runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.
The Blue Jays gave him a 1-0 lead when Rios led off the bottom of the first with a home run. Rios lined Benson's 1-1 slider just over the left-field wall for his 13th home run.
Janssen cruised into the third when an apparent blown call by first base umpire Ed Hickox started an Orioles rally. Replays showed that Lyle Overbay had beaten Corey Patterson to first base for what would have been the inning's first out. But Hickox ruled that Patterson was safe.
Kevin Millar followed with an infield single and after Markakis hit into a fielder's choice, Brian Roberts bashed a triple into the right-center-field gap, scoring two runs. The Orioles second baseman was then stranded at third as Janssen struck out Brandon Fahey swinging through a curveball and Melvin Mora looking at one.
Benson got out of a jam of his own in the third after a leadoff double by Aaron Hill. With Blue Jays on second and third and one out, Benson struck out Frank Catalanotto and then Vernon Wells to end the inning.
The Orioles chased Janssen in the fourth. They loaded the bases on three straight singles by Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons and Hernandez. After Patterson made the first out with an infield pop-up, Janssen hit Millar to bring in the Orioles' third run. Markakis then plated two runs with a single.
Following a single by Roberts, Toronto manager John Gibbons yanked Janssen. Brian Tallet came in and got Toronto out of a bases-loaded one-out jam, keeping the Orioles' lead at 5-1. Janssen, a former Orioles' draft pick that the team wasn't able to sign, saw his ERA go from 3.07 to 3.66.
The Orioles would strand the bases loaded again in the fifth, unable to capitalize on Gibbons' single and Hernandez's double. Rios connected for his second homer, a two-run shot into the second deck in left field, in the bottom of the fifth, pulling the Blue Jays within 5-3. It was Rios' first multi-home run game of his career.
But Benson and the bullpen kept the other Jays quiet.
"Benson threw a great game." Millar said. "We had enough runs, I think. We were battling away, but at times, they made some good pitches. We never panicked.
"Nobody is giving up. We have had some tough losses, and we come right back and bounce back. It's baseball. You have to shower off the bad games and get ready for the next one. We've done a good job in doing that."