When Darren O’Day loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning of a tie game Saturday afternoon, the Orioles were on the brink of another dismaying loss at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays’ second home sellout crowd this season began to ring in his ears as O’Day gave a dangerous Toronto batting order late-inning life.
Teetering on disaster, O’Day performed a tremendous escape, getting out of the inning without allowing a run by striking out the side, stealing momentum for the Orioles, who then broke the tie with three runs in the top of the ninth for a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays in front of 46,018, giving them their first win in five games at Rogers Centre this season.
After O’Day struck out Kevin Pillar swinging to end the inning, he emphatically pumped his fist in the air as the Toronto outfielder slammed his bat into the dirt repeatedly. The Orioles offense rode that momentum to rally on a pair of two-out hits. No. 9 hitter Caleb Joseph broke the tie with an RBI single to center off Aaron Loup (2-4) and Manny Machado followed with a two-run double off reliever Ryan Tepera.
“You load up the bases with no outs and you’re already thinking that at least one run was going to come in. To get out of it with none and three Ks, we’re thinking ‘Let’s go get it,’” said Machado, who had three hits, two runs and two RBIs. “That’s just how we do it out here. We never give up. We’re going to keep fighting. That led to a good inning. That’s definitely what we need to keep doing.”
Toronto responded with a run in the ninth off closer Zach Britton when Jose Bautista hit a one-out RBI single. But Britton recovered by inducing a double-play ball from Edwin Encarnacion to seal his 19th save.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman, reinstated from the disabled list before the game to make his first major league start of the season, gave the Orioles (35-33) five solid innings, allowing two runs on four hits. The Orioles bullpen kept the game close — no inning more dramatic or critical to the win than O’Day’s eighth.
O’Day (3-0) allowed back-to-back singles to Bautista and Encarnacion to open the inning. He then walked pinch hitter Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases. O’Day struck out the next three batters — Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro and Pillar — to end the inning.
“Yeah, it is a game of momentum, especially here in Toronto with this team,” O’Day said. “It’s tough here when they start hitting balls all over the place to keep your cool and all of our guys did a great job today. We are going to scrap something together.”
O’Day’s escape didn’t come without a scare. Navarro his a towering ball down the right-field line, prompting a review that confirmed the original call that the ball hooked foul.
“He just goes pitch by pitch,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of O’Day. “He doesn’t try to get ahead of himself and say, ‘This is what I’ve got to have here.’ He goes pitch to pitch and sees where it takes [him]. He made some good pitches to Bautista and Encarnacion and they flipped a couple in there. Biggest thing was keeping them in the ballpark for two days. It’s hard to do.”
O’Day also loaded the bases with no outs before escaping the threat in a tie game May 29 against Tampa Bay. He allowed back-to-back singles and then hit a batter in the ninth before retiring three in a row.
“I’m doing it too frequently, did it a few weeks ago,” O’Day said. “There’s really no secret — just got to focus on each pitch. And when you do that, when you can stay in the moment and focus on the next pitch, next pitch, you can kind of string them together.”
Both runs off Gausman came in the first two innings, and the 24-year-old settled in after stranding two in the second, retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.
Gausman, who went on the DL with shoulder tendinitis May 8 after opening the season as a reliever, rehabilitated with the goal of increasing his innings count to return as a starter. He made three rehab starts, including an abbreviated one Tuesday that allowed him to start in Toronto on Saturday. But Gausman hadn’t thrown more than 61 pitches in any outing this season. So the fact that Gausman gave the Orioles five innings — on 91 pitches — was a victory.
“Just ready to get back on the mound,” Gausman said. “That was awesome for me, even just warming up, thinking it’s only been a month and it feels like it’s been forever. It was a little sporadic the first inning. I thought there were some pitches that were strikes that weren’t called. But that’s a part of the game. I dealt with it last year also, but I felt like I really settled in. It was really big for me to get out of that jam in the second inning.”
After the Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first, four batters into the bottom of the inning, Gausman let the Blue Jays (37-33) tie the game. Jose Reyes led off with a double and Gausman walked Josh Donaldson to put runners at first and second. Two batters later, Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly to left scored Reyes from third.
The only other Toronto run against Gausman came home on a wild pitch to Pillar with no outs in the second, letting Martin score from third.
Gausman opened the inning by hitting Martin, even though the Jays catcher appeared to swing into the pitch. Navarro followed with a single that put runners at the corners. A first-pitch breaking ball to Pillar one-hopped past Joseph and into the Blue Jays dugout, giving Toronto a 2-1 lead.
Machado scored both Orioles runs off Toronto left-hander Mark Buehrle, including one on a gutsy tag from third on Delmon Young's shallow sacrifice fly to left in the sixth to tie the game at 2. Left fielder Chris Colabello’s throw home was on line, but Machado slid just under Martin’s tag, a play that was challenged by Jays manager John Gibbons and confirmed.
“Roll the dice,” Machado said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You just have to roll the dice and see what happens. I beat it. It was a good call by [third base coach] Bobby [Dickerson]."
Buehrle allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking one, leaving before the Orioles did the majority of their damage.
With one on and two outs in the inning, Loup hit second baseman Ryan Flaherty in the right side, bringing up Joseph. Joseph fought off an inside pitch from Loup, flaring it to center field to score J.J. Hardy from second. Machado then rocketed a line drive down the left-field line off Tepera to score two insurance runs the Orioles would need.