The Toronto Blue Jays continued to hammer away at the Orioles' struggling pitching staff Friday night, knocking Mike Wright and Ubaldo Jimenez all over Camden Yards in a 13-3 victory that featured a three-homer, eight-RBI performance by Michael Saunders and the Jays' third straight double-digit offensive barrage against the first-place O's.
The Blue Jays (39-31) scored 11 runs on June 11 and 10 runs Sunday in Toronto, and have now beaten the Orioles four straight times to climb into a virtual second-place tie with the Boston Red Sox (37-29), just one game off the American League East lead.
Of course, it's too early to make much of the standings, but it's not too early to wonder about the future of both Wright and Jimenez, both of whom no longer appear to be viable members of the major league pitching staff.
Something has to give before Saturday's late-afternoon game, since the Orioles (38-28) have to make room on the roster for veteran starter Yovani Gallardo to return from the disabled list and rejoin the rotation. It seems likely that Wright will be sent back Triple-A Norfolk, while Gallardo's first start after missing nearly two months with a sore shoulder has taken on even more significance.
"We have to make two [roster moves]," manager Buck Showalter said. "We've got to make room for Gallardo, and J.J. [Hardy] is going to be activated tomorrow. So we've got two moves to make between now and tomorrow's game. … For sure, at least two."
Somebody has to stop the bleeding against a Blue Jays offense that is rolling despite the loss of slugger Jose Bautista to the disabled list with a foot injury. Saunders launched a three-run homer in the first inning, hit another three-run shot in the fourth and added a two-run homer, his 15th of the year, in the sixth. He got up one more time, but bounced into a double play in the eighth.
Wright was charged with eight earned runs on six hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He gave up three homers, one each to Saunders, Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak.
"When you're working harder than ever and get those results, it's tough," Wright said.
Jimenez's bullpen debut: Jimenez was summoned from the bullpen for his first relief appearance of the year and it didn't go well. He came on to replace Wright with the Orioles trailing 6-2 with two outs in the fourth and it was 11-2 when the inning ended.
Jimenez let two inherited runners score and had three earned runs of his own that inning, surrendering the two-run triple to Donaldson, a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and a the second home run of the game by Saunders.
Home plate review: Way back when the game was still in doubt, manager Buck Showalter challenged a play at home plate after Manny Machado was thrown out on the back end of a double play after trying to tag up on a pop-up behind first base. It appeared that catcher Russell Martin had denied Machado a path to the plate – which is a no-no under the new rules meant to prevent collisions – but the New York replay crew did not agree and the out call stood.
When opportunity knocked…: The Orioles had a chance to do to Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez what Toronto did to Wright and Jimenez, but they made the least of two huge scoring opportunities in the first three innings. Following Saunders' three-run homer in the first, four straight Orioles reached base to open the bottom of the inning, scoring a run on a single by Machado and loading the bases. One more productive swing and the Orioles probably would have gotten even, but Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez struck out and Jonathan Schoop grounded out.
The Orioles also loaded the bases with one out in the third after Trumbo drove in their second run with a single, but Schoop popped into the aforementioned double play.
Ryan Flaherty added a solo homer in the ninth.