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Baltimore Orioles

Miguel Gonzalez cruises, O's score five in second for 6-1 win over Jays

What has made right-hander Miguel Gonzalez so valuable to the Orioles the past three years is how well he competes against the American League East.

He has never been scared to pitch in Yankee Stadium and has won five of six decisions against the Boston Red Sox in his career. But he seems to crank it up another notch versus the usually formidable Toronto Blue Jays offense — especially lately.

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Gonzalez did it again Wednesday, allowing just three hits and one unearned run as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays, 6-1, in front of an announced 24,654 at Camden Yards. The Orioles (15-17) captured the three-game series — which was their first full one at home since the downtown unrest boiled over in late April. It also marked their first series victory over Toronto (17-18) in three tries this season.

It was Gonzalez's 20th win against division rivals since he made his big league debut in 2012 as a 28-year-old rookie. He is now 20-11 with a 3.26 ERA against the division widely considered the toughest in the majors.

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"In general, overall, it's a good league, and we know that," Gonzalez said. "We've been doing a good job overall, and just pitching against the AL East is not easy. You've just got to stay focused and keep doing what you're doing."

Gonzalez (4-2) seemingly always has befuddled the Blue Jays — heading into the night, he was 6-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). But he has been particularly tough on them recently. In his last six starts against them dating back to Sept. 15, 2013, Gonzalez is now 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.

"Miggy doesn't shy away from a big stage," manager Buck Showalter said. "You go through your career and you've had a lot of people tell you you couldn't do something; he doesn't take a pitch for granted up here."

On Wednesday, Gonzalez turned in one of his better outings of the young season, lasting 7 2/3 innings – the only blemish on a passed ball by Caleb Joseph in the eighth.

"After the second or third inning, we had a good groove, just setting up and the ball was right there," Joseph said. "When Miggy gets going, be alert. He could go seven or eight."

After a three-error night Tuesday, the Orioles were much better defensively Wednesday, delivering several strong plays, including two by third baseman Manny Machado and one by second baseman Rey Navarro. Outfielder Alejandro De Aza made a nice grab in right field after throwing to the wrong base earlier in the game.

"It's more what we're capable of. It was a good defensive night," Showalter said. "I'll tell you what I was proud of, (De Aza) makes a throw that we can't make and he comes back and makes a really good play down in that tricky corner. I was happy to see that. Manny made a big play. I thought it was a momentum turn there at third base. I thought Caleb came back and had a good game. But Miggy was the difference."

That defensive support allowed Gonzalez to keep rolling. He had a little trouble in the third, however, when he hit the leadoff batter, Ezequiel Carrera, with a pitch and then gave up a single. But Machado made a nice play to tag out Carrera at third on a grounder. Machado then turned an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. That was the start of Gonzalez retiring 14 straight until the eighth.

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After the Jays' lone run scored in the eighth, Gonzalez left to a standing ovation from the crowd. Reliever Darren O'Day entered to face nemesis Jose Bautista, who hit an immediate comebacker to O'Day to end the inning. O'Day pitched a scoreless ninth and preserved the win for Gonzalez, who walked three and struck out five on his way to matching his season high in innings pitched.

Wednesday was the third time this season the Orioles have faced Toronto's Aaron Sanchez. By now, they know the drill with the talented 22-year-old right-hander. He has tremendous ability, but he has had trouble throwing strikes.

After Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy walked on a combined nine pitches in the second inning, David Lough dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Joseph followed with a two-run double down the left-field line.

It was the first of three straight run-scoring doubles – Machado and De Aza hit the other two – and Jimmy Paredes completed the five-run second inning by hustling to beat out a grounder for another RBI. The infield hit extended Paredes' streak to 12 consecutive games with at least one hit. He is 10-for-21 in his last five games.

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With the way Gonzalez threw, the Orioles didn't need to do much more against Sanchez (3-3), who lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, four walks, a wild pitch and a hit batter.

The Orioles did get one more run in the eighth when Navarro hit the first homer of his big league career, a solo shot to left off Toronto reliever Brett Cecil.

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"I just feel like it was something out of this world," said Navarro, who was recalled from Norfolk on Tuesday when Ryan Flaherty was put on the disabled list. "That's the dream coming true. Playing in the big leagues and then you hit your first career home run. It was great."

It also came with his first celebratory pie in the face from outfielder Adam Jones.

"It was a good one," Navarro said, smiling after the game. "And it tastes great."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun


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