It seems like every time the Orioles travel north of the border, they write another bizarre chapter in their budding feud with the Toronto Blue Jays.
You know the back story by now. These two teams don't like each other, a history that goes back two years with what seemed like an innocent but emphatic hop off the mound when Darren O'Day struck out Jose Bautista.
Since then, the two teams have had verbal exchanges, both on and off the field, as well a share of pelted batters from each side, the tension so strong that home plate umpire CB Bucknor might have been too heavy handed in the Orioles' 5-4 loss Friday night by quickly issuing warnings in the first inning, eventually leading to three Toronto ejections.
Somewhere in between was a memorable game on many levels. Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but once pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes broke it up, the Orioles rallied late before stranding the tying run on third base.
"We grinded it out," designated hitter Adam Jones said. "Estrada threw great, tip your hat to the man. But we put ourselves in a position to take the lead. I'm sure people were watching the game saying, 'Eh, this is going to be a tough loss for the Orioles.' But we grinded it out and made it a game."
Estrada (5-3) walked three of the first seven batters he faced Friday night, but settled quickly, keeping the Orioles off balance with a strong changeup. After losing his no-hit bid on a pinch-hit bloop single by Paredes to lead off the eighth, Estrada watched his bullpen nearly blow the game.
Down to their last out, the Orioles (34-33) made it a one-run game on Jones' two-run single off closer Brett Cecil. But Chris Davis struck out to end the game, stranding the tying and winning runs on base.
Nonetheless, the Orioles opened their three-game series in Toronto with a loss that has them winless in four games at Rogers Centre this season.
The first hit batter spun Orioles rookie right-hander Mike Wright out of control in the first inning. Eight of the 12 hitters Wright faced reached base — four of them scoring — as the rookie lasted just 1 1/3 innings, unable to regain his composure after an unfortunate first-inning two-out hit batsman snowballed on him.
As he sat in the dugout, Wright ran his hands through his hair and then emphatically punched into the bench padding with his pitching hand six times.
"I don't like not going deep into the game, especially when it's because I'm not throwing strikes," Wright said. "For me not to even give my team a chance by walking guys, it's not my game and definitely something I'm not very happy about. It was tough."
Wright (2-3), who began his big league career with a streak 14 1/3 scoreless innings, has allowed 14 runs in 10 1/3 innings over his last three starts, posting a 12.19 ERA in that span. After retiring the first two hitters he faced, Wright unraveled quickly after hitting Bautista with an inside 0-1 pitch that barely nicked the front of his jersey.
The Blue Jays slugger, who had been the focal point of the growing dislike between these teams, grumbled as Bucknor warned both teams. Catcher Matt Wieters stepped in front of Bautista and exchanged words. Bautista also engaged the Orioles dugout while at first base. Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected for arguing the warnings.
"I'm not going to contribute to turn this into TMZ or a gossip column," Bautista said. "It was suspicious, but I don't have any proof. ... The last three weeks, we've been playing great baseball, we're winning a lot of games. I'm not going to change our focus or turn this into a circus."
On the Orioles' last trip to Toronto, after Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia threw a pitch behind Bautista, the Blue Jays veteran homered in the same at-bat. Bautista admired the blast and then stared Garcia down, raising the ire of Orioles players on the field and in the dugout.
After Bautista was hit on this night, the Jays followed with back-to-back RBI doubles by Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak, putting Wright in a quick 2-0 hole. Wright battled with his control, walking four, including three in the second inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Wright walked Bautista on four pitches to bring in a run. Fellow rookie Tyler Wilson entered in relief, and walked in another run to put the Orioles in a 4-0 hole.
"It happened really quickly," Wright said of the early warnings. "And I know there's been [history], but when you get warned that quick — obviously I wasn't trying to hit Bautista. ... I pitched him in. I accidentally hit him. We got warned and it's kind of tough to go in on another guy because obviously if you hit somebody, then you're gone out of the game. It's was kind of tough, but neither side of the plate today I was commanding very well."
The Blue Jays (37-32) added another run in the third on Dioner Navarro's sac fly after Chris Colabello opened the inning with a double to right and moved to third on right fielder Chris Parmelee's throwing error.
The Orioles rallied after Paredes blooped a hit off Estrada, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when he left in the eighth after his 118th pitch of the night. Two batters later, Manny Machado singled off Roberto Osuna, followed by Parmelee's RBI single to score Paredes.
Jones, who feuded with Bautista in the Orioles' last trip to Toronto, was then hit by a two-strike pitch from Osuna. Even though the pitch loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate, Bucknor immediately ejected Osuna and interim manager DeMarlo Hale, a former Orioles third base coach.
"At the end of the day, the pitchers got to be able to pitch inside," Jones said. "I don't mind if the ball is coming inside. I don't mind it. If I went up there and knew 100 percent that they couldn't come inside and I had the whole outside plate to look at, that changes things up. You've got to respect the game. It didn't bother me at all."
The Orioles brought in another run on Davis' groundout and loaded the bases again on a four-pitch walk to Wieters. But J.J. Hardy stranded the bases loaded by popping out to short to end the eighth.
The Orioles loaded the bases again in the ninth. Cecil hit Parmelee with a pitch to load the bases that drew no reaction nor ejection from Bucknor. Jones looped an opposite-field single to right to score two runs and make it a one-run game. But the Orioles couldn't complete the comeback.