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Orioles lose third straight as Jimenez battles control problems

Calm reigned in Toronto, but the Orioles lost their third in a row.

As the Orioles played their second game of their three-game series against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, there was no carryover from the heated tension of the previous night, when Toronto slugger Jose Bautista's post-homer theatrics fired up the Orioles.

Calm reigned at Rogers Center. Bautista watched from the Toronto dugout, not in the starting lineup after aggravating a right shoulder strain. One of Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez's pitches sailed high on Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, but neither team seemed to think there was intent. The Rogers Centre crowd booed loudly every time Adam Jones — who jawed with Bautista between innings Tuesday and called Bautista's behavior “uncalled for” — stepped up to the plate.

“It wasn't even a topic of conversation, especially after they played the anthem,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Tuesday's drama. “But I understand how people make it relevant.”

Despite the growing testiness between the two teams, Showalter tried to keep the focus on baseball, and the fact that his team isn't necessarily playing its best baseball.

And on Wednesday, the Orioles lost their third straight game for the first time in this young season, falling to the Blue Jays, 4-2, in front of an announced crowd of 15,606.

The loss also ensured that the Orioles (7-8) would not end their seven-game road trip to Boston and Toronto with a winning record.

“I think we've just got to look at the things we've been doing well,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “This is a tough road trip early on in the season, three day games in a row and then having to come here to play these guys. But no one is going to feel sorry for us and we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to take a step back and really get back to playing our brand of baseball.”

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who hadn't allowed a run in his first two starts of the season, battled with his control and allowed a pair of two-run home runs. In dropping the first two games here, Orioles pitchers have allowed five homers.

But that wasn't why the Orioles lost Wednesday night. They couldn't take advantage of Sanchez's wildness, able to score only two runs — both coming on Jimmy Paredes' two-run homer in the third — over 5 1/3 innings despite the fact that Sanchez issued seven walks.

“There's no doubt,” said Davis, who drew two walks and had a single. “I think this being the third or fourth time we've seen him, we kind of know what to expect. He's got a good arm. He can be a little wild at times. I think we did a good job of making him stay in the strike zone, but we left too many runners on base. In a close game like this you're going to need those runs.”

The Orioles also committed two costly baserunning errors that killed rallies, another thing that was magnified in a close game.

With two on and one out in the first inning, Adam Jones lined a ball that first baseman Justin Smoak caught and threw to second to double up Paredes, who was unable to get back to the bag. In the seventh inning, Alejandro De Aza was thrown out attempting to steal third with two outs in the inning and Davis at the plate.

“It's an area of aggression,” Showalter said. “Jimmy thinks he's going to score and it's going to be through and didn't see it through. I don't want to take away their aggressiveness.

“There's got to be some thought put behind when [to be aggressive],” Showalter added, referring to De Aza's steal attempt. “You'd like to have Chris swing the bat there.”

The Orioles needed a deep start from Jimenez — no starter has gone six or more innings since April 15 – but he left Wednesday's game after just five innings having thrown 102 pitches.

Jimenez battled through a 25-pitch fourth inning that saw him walk three batters and allow a game-tying homer to Smoak.

“I was trying to be too fine,” Jimenez said. “Instead of doing what I was doing, I was trying to nibble too much on the corners. It was tough because I threw way too many pitches. I had three walks so that's why I couldn't go more than five innings, because of that inning.”

In his first two starts, Jimenez showed how effective he could be when working ahead. That included a seven shutout inning effort against the Blue Jays in Jimenez's regular-season debut on April 11, when he mixed his pitches well to strike out eight and walk just one. But on Wednesday, he fell behind too often, and the Blue Jays (8-7) made him pay.

After walking designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to open the fourth, he fell behind Smoak 2-0 before leaving a pitch out over the outer half of the plate that Smoak took the opposite way over left-center field fence.

In the fifth inning, Jimenez allowed another leadoff man on base, allowing a single to shortstop Jose Reyes. He threw to first three times to keep the speedy Reyes close to the bag, but hung a 1-1 splitter to rookie Devon Travis that he blasted over the center-field fence.

“I thought Ubaldo gave us a chance to win,” Showalter said. “I'm not really going to have a problem with that. The stuff was good and I thought the presentation was good.”

Paredes continued his hot hitting since joining the club on Saturday in Boston, taking a 1-0 pitch from Sanchez over the outer half of the plate and sent it the other way over the left-center field fence. In four games since being activated off the disabled list, Paredes is 7-for-16 with five runs scored and three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer), mostly hitting from the No. 2 hole.

The Orioles missed out on their best opportunity to break through in the sixth, unable to score with the bases loaded and one out. They chased Sanchez from the game following two walks and loaded the bases on Manny Machado's single off Toronto reliever Roberto Osuna, but Osuna rebounded, inducing a popup from Ryan Flaherty and striking out Joseph.

They also put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth against rookie Toronto closer Miguel Castro, but Joseph struck out looking and pinch hitter Delmon Young hit into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.

 

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