It's too early for the Orioles to breathe a sigh of relief after Yovani Gallardo delivered a solid five innings in his first start back in the rotation after missing two months rehabilitating a sore shoulder. But Gallardo's wily performance Saturday was certainly a breath of fresh air for a team in the middle of a pitching crisis.
Gallardo gave up just two runs on five hits and deftly worked out of a couple of dangerous situations to continue his career dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays in a tense 4-2 victory at Oriole Park. He got the win to improve his record to 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in four lifetime starts against Toronto. He also beat the Jays in last year's American League Division Series as a member of the Texas Rangers.
"I felt good," Gallardo said. "I made pitches when I had to. It was just good to be back out there once again and contribute … and we got the win. I think that's the most important thing. It was a big win for us and it was nice, nice to be back out there."
The Orioles (39-28) staked him to a quick two-run lead against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in the first inning when Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado delivered back-to-back doubles for one run and Machado came home minutes later on a passed ball.
The Blue Jays, who hit five homers and scored 13 runs Friday night, threatened to open up on Gallardo in the third inning when Ezequiel Carrera lined a solo home run to center with one out and the next three hitters reached base on a double and two walks. One more big swing and it would have been a different game, but Gallardo struck out Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki to get out of trouble.
Gallardo knows how important a successful comeback will be to his team, but he also knows that everybody will have to pitch better in the rotation to get where the Orioles want to go.
"I think it takes five guys," he said. "We're a pretty close group and we're looking forward to the rest of the season. It's one of those things where we all know what we have to do. Sometimes, it takes one guy out there to pick us up and sometimes it's another guy."
Gallardo gave way after throwing 85 pitches to right-hander Mychal Givens, who pitched two innings of one-hit relief. Brad Brach pitched a perfect eighth and Zach Britton struggled though the ninth to get his 21st straight save to start the season.
The Orioles will try to win the series Sunday when No. 1 starter Chris Tillman (9-1, 2.87 ERA) takes on Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-2, 4.76 ERA).
Manny at full steam: Nobody could question Machado's effort Saturday after he got called out for his apparent lack of hustle on a couple of balls Thursday and Friday. He sped about the bases on a first-inning double and streaked home on a passed ball to score the second run of the game. He also beat out an infield hit in the third inning and lined a solid single to left center in the eighth.
J.J.'s return: J.J. Hardy also returned to action after nearly seven weeks on the disabled list and looked comfortable at shortstop. He also pulled a double down the left field in his second at-bat of the game and ran at full speed without apparent restriction.
Schoop won't knuckle under: Orioles manager Buck Showalter inserted Schoop into the No. 2 hole in the lineup against Dickey and the Orioles second baseman delivered a key double in the first inning and a solo home run in the third. The home run was his 11th of the year and the RBI was his 38th. Schoop also delivered a bloop single in the eighth inning and finished with three hits and three runs scored.
Protecting Kim: Hyun Soo Kim has gotten most of the at-bats in the second slot against right-handed pitching over the past few weeks, but Showalter apparently wanted to hide him from Dickey after the way Kim struggled in two starts against Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright. Kim was a combined 0-for-6 with two strikeouts against Wright.