With every game critical at this point, the wild-card contending Baltimore Orioles can't afford many self-induced setbacks.
Looking to bounce back from their latest defeat, the Orioles try to avoid losing a fifth straight road series Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Part of the crowded AL wild-card race, Baltimore (78-70) led 3-2 in the seventh inning when Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer off starter Chris Tillman that ultimately helped Toronto (68-80) snap a four-game slide with Saturday's 4-3 victory.
Losers in five of seven, the Orioles have not won a road series since taking two of three at San Francisco from Aug. 9-11. Things don't get any easier after this set for Baltimore, which travels to AL-leading Boston for three games starting Tuesday, then plays four at fellow wild-card contender Tampa Bay to conclude its final road trip."It's not easy to make the playoffs, it sure isn't," outfielder Nate McLouth said. "Doing it last year was kind of an eye-opener on exactly how it's got to be done. It's a grind, it's a battle to make the playoffs."
Manny Machado was 3 for 19 in the previous four games before he homered and recorded his 50th double of the season Saturday, but Baltimore stranded eight and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
It was the 11th time in 13 games the Orioles had two or fewer hits in such situations."It's hard to do," manager Buck Showalter said. "They've done it a lot more times than they haven't. It just gets magnified at this time of year."
The Orioles might have a good chance to bounce back against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle (11-8, 4.18 ERA), who allowed eight runs on homers to Adam Jones , Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy in six innings of an 8-5 loss at Baltimore on July 12.
Davis is 6 for 12 with two homers and Jones 7 for 19 (.368) versus Buehrle, who was 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA during a nine-start stretch before running into the Los Angeles Angels . The left-hander gave up eight runs and a season-high 12 hits - three homers - in four innings of a 12-6 home loss Tuesday.
"The whole game I wasn't making pitches; everything was up, falling behind in the count," he told the Blue Jays' official website. "I feel like I have been pitching so well for so long that you kind of have a bump in the road once in a while, and (Tuesday) was that day."
Baltimore counters with Miguel Gonzalez (9-7, 4.00), who is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season but 0-2 with a 7.48 ERA in his last four road starts overall.
After making two relief appearances in late August, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts. He allowed three runs and two homers while striking out six in six innings, not getting a decision in a 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
Rasmus is 1 for 12 with a double and six strikeouts versus Gonzalez, but is batting .458 (11 for 24) with two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs in his last six games against the Orioles.
|August 31, 2013||Eric Beaulac||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|August 28, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 16, 2013||Francisco Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 14, 2013||Nolan Reimold||60-Day DL||Nerve inflammation in cervical spine|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 08, 2013||Moises Sierra||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|August 21, 2013||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left hip bone bruise - out for season|
|August 21, 2013||Maicer Izturis||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
TORONTO (AP) -- Miguel Gonzalez set a career high in victories Sunday, even though he had to watch the final few innings from the trainer's room.
Gonzalez pitched 5 1-3 innings before leaving with a strained right groin, Danny Valencia hit a two-run double and the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1.
The Orioles closed within 2 1/2 games of Tampa Bay and Texas for the AL wild-card spots.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and trainer Richie Bancells came to the mound after Gonzalez (10-7) struck out Adam Lind looking to begin the sixth.
After a brief conversation, Gonzalez walked off and was replaced by rookie Kevin Gausman .
"We'll have a better idea tomorrow or the next day about the amount of soreness," Showalter said. "Richie thinks it's a Grade 1 (strain), which is the least of them. But I would say he's in jeopardy of missing a start."
Gonzalez came in 0-2 with a 7.48 ERA in his last four road starts. He was sharp against Toronto, allowing one run and six hits. He walked none and struck out three.
Gonzalez, who said he hoped not to miss a start, explained that he hurt himself in the at-bat against Lind after trying to ramp up his velocity, something he often does in the later innings.
"I was trying to do a little bit more than I was earlier in the game," Gonzalez said. "Fifth, sixth inning, that's when I try to turn it on a little bit more and just finish strong."
Valencia has six RBIs in four games, one more run than he drove in during all of August.
"I'm happy for him," Gonzalez said. "He's red hot."
The Orioles won their first road series since taking two of three at San Francisco on Aug. 9-11. It was their first road series win against an AL opponent since winning two of three at Boston in early April.
Baltimore came in batting .221 with runners in scoring position in the past 21 games, and went just 1 for 8 against Toronto. But the hit was a big one: Valencia's two-out double in the third off left-hander Mark Buehrle , which scored Nick Markakis and Adam Jones .
Valencia said he was determined to make amends after grounding out to end the first, stranding runners at first and second.
"Anytime you get a hit with runners in scoring position it's huge, especially with two outs," Valencia said. "My at-bat before that, I left two on in the same situation, so it was nice to come through and get those runs."
Showalter said he's been impressed with Valencia's attitude as well as with his play.
"He's gotten some big hits," Showalter said. "Danny is really engaged in the competition. He's not trying to create a mark for himself for next year or whatever. Danny is engaged in the winning and he wants to be a part of something here. Those are the things you remember in the offseason as much as what he's done with the bat."
Baltimore slugger Chris Davis , who hit his 50th home run of the season Friday, went 0 for 3 and struck out twice. He also drew a bases-loaded walk.
Adam Lind hit a solo home run for the Blue Jays, who have lost five of six. Toronto lost for the 31st time this season when scoring first.
After replacing Gonzalez, Gausman gave up a single to Moises Sierra and walked Rajai Davis before fanning Ryan Goins and J.P. Arencibia to end the sixth.
Brett Lawrie hit a two-out single off Francisco Rodriguez in the seventh and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a double, snapping an 0-for-18 slump. Lind was walked intentionally to load the bases before Tommy Hunter came on and struck out Sierra.
Hunter worked the eighth and Jim Johnson finished for his 45th save in 54 chances.
Lind opened the scoring with a leadoff shot into the second deck in the second, his 21st homer. Baltimore answered in the third on Valencia's key double.
An error, a double and a walk helped the Orioles load the bases in the fourth before Davis drew a two-out walk to force in a run.
Buehrle (11-9) allowed three runs in five innings.
"It was a battle for him today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He kept the game in check without his best stuff."
NOTES: Baltimore OF Nate McLouth was replaced by pinch-runner Chris Dickerson after being hit by a pitch on the right knee to begin the ninth. ... Toronto OF Colby Rasmus , who homered both Friday and Saturday, was scratched from the lineup after complaining of general soreness. Rasmus, who was activated off the 15-day DL before Friday's game, was replaced by Davis. ... Orioles RHP Bud Norris , who was scratched from Friday's start with a sore forearm, played catch before the game and is tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen Tuesday. "I can't tell you he didn't feel anything today but it's much improved from where he was," Showalter said. "Tuesday will tell where he fits in."
... The Orioles and Blue Jays are both off Monday. Baltimore begins a three-game series at Boston on Tuesday, while Toronto welcomes the New York Yankees for three.