In terms of personnel, this is a much different Orioles team than the one that failed to win a game at Rogers Centre this season in its first seven tries.
The result in Monday’s series opener, however, was the same as the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-3, to fall to 0-8 north of the border this season.
“Yeah, it’s been a lot of close games,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his team’s winless season in Toronto. “It’s a small separator, like today, where we weren’t able to do some of the things we’ve done in the past to get over that hump.”
The last time the Orioles were in Toronto, last month in the first series after the All-Star break, they had just traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their roster overhaul had just begun.
The Orioles (37-88), now 51 games under .500 on the season, have lost 10 of 11 games against the Blue Jays overall this year.
The Blue Jays (56-69) are no contender, but they’ve dominated the Orioles.
“I’ve actually had a lot of success here I feel like in this ballpark,” said Andrew Cashner, who allowed five runs in six innings. “You know, all the teams in our division other than the Yankees I don’t think we’ve played all that well. But you know we have a different group now so it’s definitely different. But it’s something we can look forward to for next year – start playing these guys better. You know, home and road and see where we’re at.”
Cashner (4-11) and gave up a pair of home runs to designated hitter Kendrys Morales. It was Morales’ second home run, a three-run homer in Toronto’s four-run fifth, that broke the game open in Cashner’s third time through the Blue Jays order.
“He has probably three pitches he’d like to take back,” Showalter said of Cashner. “You can’t. Sometimes at this level, it’s enough to be the difference. We still walked, what, four or five guys tonight. That’s something that’s been a challenge. We played a pretty crisp game otherwise … but Andrew just got some pitches where he didn’t want to throw them.”
Cashner entered the fifth having allowed just one run on three hits — including Morales’ solo homer in the fourth. But No. 9 hitter Richard Ureña’s leadoff double in the fifth, a ball that tailed past right fielder Adam Jones and one-hopped the fence, turned the Blue Jays batting order over.
Two batters later, Kevin Pillar scored Ureña with a ground-rule double down the left-field line. Cashner walked Justin Smoak, then elevated a 2-0 four-seamer that Morales sent into the second deck in right. Opponents are hitting .344 off Cashner the third time through the order.
“I think they realized that I wasn’t really throwing my off-speed stuff for strikes,” Cashner said. “I think as the game went on, I started throwing my slider for a strike. But I didn’t really have a curveball and I didn’t really have a good changeup. So for me it’s I think you gotta get strike one, which I worked behind a lot of guys which allowed them to just sit fastball. I have to make a better adjustment and I’ll get another chance at them here in about 10 days.”
Morales is 6-for-10 in his career against Cashner, with three of those hits being home runs.
The Orioles stranded eight base runners on the night, wasting several scoring opportunities against starter Marco Estrada (7-9). They put two on with two out in the second on singles by Tim Beckham and Craig Gentry, but No. 9 hitter Caleb Joseph struck out looking to end the inning.
They had the bases loaded with one out in the third, but came away with just one run on Chris Davis’ sacrifice fly. And they had two on with two outs in the fourth before Jonathan Villar hit a sharp comebacker to Estrada to end that inning.
Part of the reason the Orioles failed to capitalize on all those base runners was because they were kept off-balance by Estrada’s bread-and-butter pitch, his changeup. Estrada induced 10 swinging strikes on his changeup, which included three of his four strikeouts on the night.
“You see a guy like Estrada with a lot of young hitters, not much experience in the lineup, it’s right up his alley,” Showalter said. “He’s going to use that ‘want to’ and aggressiveness against them. You can sit here and show them tape and percentages of 40-something percent changeups, and until you get out there, it shows how good his changeup is.
The Orioles chased Estrada from the game three batters into the sixth inning after Renato Núñez’s leadoff homer and Gentry’s double. Gentry landed on third on Curtis Granderson’s fielding error.
Joseph roped an RBI double into the right-center-field gap off reliever Ryan Tepera to cut the lead to 5-3.
In his third start since returning from the disabled list with a fractured rib, Gentry had his third three-hit game of the season.
“Yeah I mean of course the goal is to go out there and win every game,” Gentry said. “I swung the bat well tonight and happy about that, but at the same time, it’s a team game and we lost. It’s tough to hang your hat on that.”
The Orioles took two balls to the warning track in the eighth against reliever Tyler Clippard, but the deep fly balls off the bats of Beckham and Gentry stayed in the park for harmless outs.