TORONTO — Last week, when the Boston Red Sox swept the Orioles in four games, we saw the difference between a team that's well on its way to an American League East title and one struggling to make it into the postseason.
This week's script – at least from the looks of it so far – could be another horror tale for the Orioles. A story of opportunity lost.
The Orioles can't win here at Rogers Centre. In years past, they could emerge from the slugfests here victorious, but Tuesday's 5-1 win is an example of how things have changed in the Orioles-Blue Jays rivalry.
Toronto actually has pitching now to complement their robust batting lineup. The Blue Jays' rotation owns a 3.69 ERA, best in the American League, and their starters average more than six innings a game, which is also tops in the AL.
By comparison, the Orioles' rotation owns a 4.82 ERA, second to last in the AL, and starters average a little over 5 1/3 innings per start.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman was the Orioles' best shot at a quality start here. Tonight's starter, right-hander Chris Tillman, owns a 7.51 career ERA at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who will start Thursday's series finale, has an 8.41 career ERA in Toronto.
Gausman had been the Orioles best pitcher over the last five weeks, even though he hasn't really been the same his last two starts since suffering a mild intercostal strain. On Tuesday, he allowed five runs (four earned) over six innings.
"I felt fine physically," Gausman said. "That was a good thing. You're always testing that out as you're getting ready for the game, especially this time of year. I just tried to kind of minimize [the damage]. When you put that many guys on base and you don't have quick innings against this lineup, you're going to get hurt. You try not to get beat. You try to make those big guys not beat you and you can get overwhelmed with some of their other guys in that lineup. "
Gausman was on a roll, posting a 0.82 ERA over five-start stretch from Aug. 23-Sept. 14. Before his Sept. 20 start, he had allowed just two homers over a span of seven starts, four of them scoreless.
But the Blue Jays jumped on him early Tuesday, making Gausman pay for a walk to leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera when Josh Donaldson followed with a two-run homer.
Gausman has allowed six homers in three starts at Rogers Centre this year, and four of them have been in the first inning.
"When you put multiple guys on base against this lineup, they're usually going to make you pay for it," Gausman said. "They're a little bit different team this year than they've been in the past. They used to beat you up and anything they did on the mound was a plus, but I think everything think they've done this year has been the opposite. They have a good starting staff and a lot of guys who pitch a lot of innings.
"I don't know what it is about [playing in Toronto]," Gausman said, "But hopefully we can come back tomorrow and try to get one and then the next day after that try to win the series. … With the two teams we have left to play, we're definitely up against the wall, but that's what's fun. It's fun this time of the year."