The Blue Jays used four solo homeruns in four straight innings to complete the sweep against American League East leading Orioles in a 4-1 win at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday night. Toronto got a measure of revenge after losing two series, including a sweep, to Baltimore earlier this season but improved its record against its rival to 4-5.
The Blue Jays (27-24) are now two games behind the Orioles (29-22) and the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, the division has become tighter as the New York Yankees sit just two percentage points ahead of Toronto while the Boston Red Sox are just a half game behind.
“Not surprising in my mind,” said Blue Jays Manager John Farrell on his team’s performance in the series. “This is a team that has been very resilient and they’ve been able to separate what took place the day before or the series before. We were able to do just that – put it behind us and go out and put three very good ball games together.”
Brandon Morrow (6-3) pitched 6 1/3 innings before leaving the game after taking a line drive off his right leg courtesy of Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit. The ball left Morrow fearing the worst as he had to be helped off the field on one leg. Fortunately, the preliminary x-rays came back negative and the right-handed pitcher is listed day-to-day with a shin-contusion.
“It hurt a lot,” said Morrow who expects to make his next start likely to be next Wednesday. “My foot was numb and then felt like it was swelling up.”
“Luckily it the muscle on the side of my shin, an inch or half of an inch over it could have been a different story.”
Morrow was dominant at times in the game as he returned to form after having the shortest start of his career last time out. In his last start in Texas he gave up five hits, six runs and three walks lasting just 2/3 of an inning in a 14-3 loss.
“I came into the game with a little chip on my shoulder after last time,” said Morrow whose game plan was to aggressively attach the strike zone. “And of course we knew this game was a big one to sweep them and get back into the race. Now we’re two games back and that was a big series for us,”
The Orioles struck first as Morrow got into some trouble in the second inning when he surrendered a walk and a single to put runners on first and third. Then Ryan Flaherty lined sharp hit to Yunel Escobar who could not hold on resulting in an infield RBI single that scored Mark Reynolds.
Morrow had enough offence from his teammates as Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus all went deep against Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel. The first three homeruns were leadoffs in the second, third and fourth innings before Rasmus connected in the fifth to increase the lead to 4-1. Encarnacion is now second in the AL with 17 homeruns behind only Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton who has 21.
The Blue Jays bullpen relief of Carlos Villanueva, Francisco Cordero and Casey Janssen closed the door the rest of the way. Janssen picked up his fifth save of the season and is five-for-five since taking over the closer role from the injured Sergio Santos.
Hammel (6-2) gave up a season-high nine hits and the four homeruns allowed were a career-high in 6 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Orioles centre fielder Adam Jones saw his AL-best hit streak snapped at 20 games.
The seemingly age-less Omar Vizquel started at second base and picked up two more hits giving him 2,850 for his career to pass Brooks Robinson for sole possession of 43rd on the all-time hit list. The 45-year old also made an incredible defensive play to snare a ball hit into the gap between first and second base.
“Well it’s always fun when you get the opportunity to play out there,” said Vizquel. “We have a good team and it’s exciting to play with the guys.”
“I think the guys are always trying to ask me questions, picking my brain and I try to help as much as I can. We got a great coaching staff that makes my job a lot easier here – they’re on top of things. It’s nice for them (teammates) to ask me questions it keeps me in the game.”
Farrell was quick to praise his veteran infielder when asked about Vizquel’s contributions to the team.
“He’s so smart inside the game,” said Farrell. “All of his actions and movements are so efficient and that only comes with 20 plus years of experience, but he’s added a lot to this club.”
The Blue Jays have now posted winning records in back-to-back months to start the season for the first time since the 2006. Toronto now has a day off before the Red Sox visit for a three-game set from Friday to Sunday.
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto sports beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times