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Blue Jays clinch AL East, Orioles answer with four homers to earn doubleheader split

The smell of champagne wafted through the hallway that links the home and visiting clubhouses at Camden Yards as the American League East crown turned from one franchise to another.

Last September, the Toronto Blue Jays were forced to watch from the visiting dugout at Camden Yards as the Orioles celebrated winning the AL East. One year later, the Orioles had to stare across the field and as the Blue Jays flooded out of that same dugout to celebrate their first division title since 1993.

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Now that the Orioles are playing for pride -- mathematically eliminated from postseason contention hours after their loss Monday night -- their main goal was preventing the Blue Jays from celebrating on their home field. They didn't do that. The Orioles were throttled by Toronto, 15-2, in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader split, officially giving the Blue Jays the division title.

"I didn't watch it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the Blue Jays' on-field celebration, which was tempered considering it was their first division crown in more than three decades. "I had a lot of work to do to get ready for the second game. Congratulations to them. They earned it. We had something that people came after and they took it from us."

Game 2 of Wednesday's single-admission doubleheader was much less painful. The Orioles hit four homers, including two by designated hitter Chris Davis, for an 8-1 win, ending their five-game losing streak and preventing them from falling into sole possession of last place in the AL East.

Since there was just 30 minutes between games, the Blue Jays didn't celebrate their division win until after Game 2, walking onto the field with champagne bottles and goggles as a group while the Camden Yards grounds crew was attempting to get the field ready for Thursday's rescheduled 12:05 p.m. start.

"They deserve it, there's no doubt about it," Davis said. "Those guys have played really well and really hard all year. They are a good team. It's always tough when you see another team accomplish what you are working for on your own turf. I sat out there a bit and kind of watched them. That's the feeling we all want at the end of the year -- that celebration, that joy and excitement. When it's not you, it's tough."

Right-hander Kevin Gausman's final start of the season also provided the Orioles with some optimism for the future. The 24-year-old tossed a career-best eight innings in Game 2, allowed just one run on five hits while striking out a career-high 10 batters and walking none.

The Orioles (77-81) must still win their final four games -- one against Toronto and three against the New York Yankees -- to avoid their first losing season since 2011.

In Game 1, the Orioles committed a season-high four errors, doing so for the first time since Aug. 12, 2008. It marked the third time in the past eight games that they've committed at least three errors. Orioles pitchers allowed 18 hits to tie a season high, including three homers: tape-measure shots by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak.

"That's a convenient excuse," Showalter said when asked if his team was flat because it was playing its first game since being eliminated. "We crossed a lot bridges. We've got to be better than that. That was disappointing. When you take any form of life, when you take hope out of the picture, it really challenges you mentally and emotionally. We didn't respond to that in the first game."

In Game 1, the Blue Jays (92-66) scored four unearned runs off Rule 5 draft pick Jason Garcia in the fifth, including three on a bizarre two-error play that saw No. 9 hitter Darwin Barney round the bases.

With runners on second and third with two outs in the inning, Barney hit a grounder to the left of the mound that Garcia fielded and wildly threw past first base to score one run. Davis' throw home then sailed over catcher Steve Clevenger and out of play, allowing Barney to score from second base.

"I think there were some mental errors, but that's baseball," second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. "Things happen, but we have to forget it. We just have to flush it away, play one more game and win."

The Orioles scored five runs in the seventh inning of Game 2, sparked by back-to-back homers by Manny Machado and Davis off right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera.

The next three Orioles batters reached base before back-to-back run-scoring hits gave the Orioles a 5-0 lead. J.J. Hardy hit an RBI single to left and Nolan Reimold followed with a two-run double to the right-field corner.

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Gausman's outing came against a Toronto lineup made up of mostly reserves. Nonetheless, Gausman (4-7) finished the season strong after allowing nine runs over his previous two starts.

"Regardless of who they ran out there tonight, I think Gaus would have had a real good outing," Showalter said. "He was sharp. That's probably as good as he's been all year. He ended his season on a real good note."

Gausman blanked the Blue Jays for seven innings before yielding a solo homer to Barney with two outs in the eighth.

Davis' second homer of the night -- a monumental blast that was estimated at 436 feet -- led off the eighth against reliever Steve Delabar. After Schoop hit his second double of the night, Matt Wieters turned on a first-pitch delivery from Delabar, sending it an estimated 414 feet into the right-field stands to give the Orioles an 8-1 lead.

"As much [as there was] a lack of crispness to the first game, the second one was just the opposite," Showalter said. "Our guys, I wouldn't say [were] 'embarrassed,' but I think they didn't take the first game too well. We didn't pitch well and it can make you look that way. It's kind of a turnaround. Some of the things they did to us in the first game we did to them."

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