Each of this season's five meetings between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays have been decided by one run, so the difference between victory and defeat can come down to one at-bat, one play or sometimes even one pitch.
And the full-count fastball that Orioles reliever Brad Brach threw to Edwin Encarnacion to open the bottom of the 10th inning Friday night wasn't off the mark. A 96-mph fastball down and away, essentially where Brach wanted it.
But with one swing, Encarnacion sent the Rogers Centre crowd of 44,439 into celebration mode, hitting a walk-off home run over the right-field fence to hand the Orioles a 4-3 extra-inning loss.
"Every time we come here it's always close games, especially against this team," Brach said. "… Every pitch counts. You've just got to get the outs when you can and the runs when you can and it was one of those nights when we didn't get it when we needed it."
Brach, who is off to the best start of his career, entered the night having been scored upon just three times this season in 26 relief appearances while sporting a 0.84 ERA. He hadn't allowed a run in his previous 10 appearances and a scoreless ninth on Friday increased his scoreless inning streak to 13 innings this season, so Encarnacion's homer disappearing over the right-field fence was a sight the Orioles have seldom seen
"He was again [good] tonight," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Hit a good pitch by a good pitcher. … That's why they call it the big leagues. We had a great eighth inning, pitched well in the ninth and just one pitch. But there are a lot of other things in the game than that. Brad is one of the best relief pitchers in the American League."
The loss snapped the Orioles' five-game winning streak.
The Orioles (36-24) didn't have a hit after Chris Davis gave them a 3-2 lead with his two-run homer in the sixth off Marco Estrada.
Davis, who entered the series hitting just .137 in his last 20 games, now has 14 homers (in 35 games) at Rogers Centre since the beginning of the 2012 season, the most of any opposing player.
"I've told you all for the years I've been here, that's one thing you really have to pay attention to, is ballparks," Showalter said of Davis. "A guy can be struggling — a pitcher or hitter — and they get into a ballpark they've had success in and it somehow changes. Of course Chris has done well in other ballparks, too, including ours."
Early on, the Orioles were baffled by Estrada and his changeup. The Orioles had just two base runners on a pair of walks before second baseman Jonathan Schoop hit a solo homer — his ninth of the season — to left with one out in the fifth inning.
In the next inning, Manny Machado drew a full-count walk before Davis took an 87-mph cutter over the right-field fence for his 14th homer of the season. Davis also hit a solo homer as part of a three-RBI day in the Orioles' 6-5 comeback win over Toronto on Thursday.
Gausman goes deep
Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman recorded back-to-back quality starts for the first time since early May, holding the Blue Jays to three runs over 61/3 innings.
He put the first two batters on base in each of his first two innings, but allowed just one unearned run. In the first inning, he gave up a leadoff single to Ezequiel Carrera, who went to third on Gausman's errant pick-off throw to first. He scored on Josh Donaldson's single, but Gausman retired the next three hitters he faced, including strikeouts of Encarnacion and Michael Saunders.
"I felt great," Gausman said. "I just kind of had my back up against the wall a bunch of times. All you try to do is pitch out of those situations. I felt like my last four starts haven't been very efficient, haven't been very quick. I'm getting deep into counts and you do that against a good team, they're going to make you hurt."
In the second inning, Gausman benefited from a 6-4-3 double-play ball off the bat of Darwin Barney that ended the inning after the first two batters reached base.
Gausman allowed a leadoff homer to Saunders to open the fourth, and after taking a 3-2 lead on Davis' homer, Russell Martin's RBI single in the bottom half of the sixth tied the game at 3-3.
"I was more upset in the fact that being a starting pitcher, when you get the lead, you're supposed to shut the door, especially that next inning," Gausman said. "That's what I was most upset about."
Showalter lauded the impact of two rookie pitchers — starter Tyler Wilson and reliever Dylan Bundy — in Thursday's win, and another rookie, right-handed reliever Mychal Givens came through in the clutch Friday.
Givens entered the game for Gausman in the seventh inning with the go-ahead run at second and one out, facing the Blue Jays' top two right-handed sluggers. But Givens escaped, striking out Donaldson swinging on a slider and getting Encarnacion to fly out to center field.
Givens, who had held right-handed hitters to a .151 average heading into Friday, has stranded 75 percent of inherited base runners this season (18 of 24).
Getting the bounces
With the game still tied at 3, Givens stranded runners at the corners in the eighth.
He issued a two-out walk to Martin, then allowed a Kevin Pillar single, bringing second baseman Devon Travis to the plate.
Givens worked a full count to Travis before inducing a comebacker that skipped off the mound and high into the air that Schoop was able to corral, but Schoop's throw to first — his only play — was low and he needed a nice scoop from Davis to get the out.