Kevin Millwood dropped to 0-5 on the season as the Orioles were… (Reuters photo )
TORONTO — There were several messages that the Orioles coaching staff reminded the team of in the traditional pre-series meeting here on Friday.
For the pitchers, they were told to make quality first pitches to a Toronto Blue Jays' offense that leads all of baseball in home runs, and is especially aggressive early in counts.
For the hitters, a patient approach was emphasized, so the Orioles could put some pressure on the opposing starter and possibly get into the Blue Jays' bullpen earlier.
These days, the Orioles seemingly know exactly what they have to do to secure a rare victory. They just don't appear to be capable of doing it. In a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays today in front of an announced 16,194 at the Rogers Centre, Oriole pitchers gave up four home runs, three of them on the first or second pitch of an at-bat.
The hitters allowed Toronto starter Brett Cecil, a Dunkirk native and former standout at the University of Maryland, to get through eight innings on 96 pitches, and without going to a three-ball count to any of the 28 hitters that he faced.
That added up to the Orioles' fourth straight loss, and their 16th defeat in the last 18 games at the Rogers Centre. Already 5-0 versus the Orioles this season, the Blue Jays will go for the three-game sweep Sunday afternoon against a team that is now 20 games under .500 after May 29.
The 98-loss 2009 Orioles' squad didn't fall to 20 games under .500 until Aug. 10.
"Absolutely it's frustrating," said Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton who had one of the Orioles' five hits. "Whenever a game starts you fully expect to go out there and win a ball game and unfortunately, we're coming up on the wrong side."
Vernon Wells broke an eighth-inning 2-2 tie by bashing a Jason Berken hanging 1-2 slider off the third deck in left field.
"Vernon is a good offspeed hitter in the strike zone," said Berken, who had done well to get Tillman out of a jam in the sixth. "I was trying to put it out of the zone and I didn't and usually when you get a slider up, they go a long way and that one did."
Three batters after Wells' blast, Alberto Castillo hung a first-pitch slider that Lyle Overbay lifted over the wall for a two-run homer, his second homer of the game.
The Blue Jays totaled four homers, the other two coming off Chris Tillman, who made an uneven 2010 debut after starting the season in Triple-A Norfolk. Tillman pitched pretty well, but he lamented a get-me-over fastball that Aaron Hill crushed for a homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth. The Orioles (15-35) had just taken a 2-1 lead in the top half of the inning. It lasted just minutes.
"He throws an 87 miles an hour fastball to try and get the first pitch over to a guy who is an All-Star second baseman. You got to do better than that," said Trembley who otherwise sounded reasonably satisfied with Tillman's 5 2/3-inning outing. "Berken does a heck of a job but then gets Vernon in a count where perhaps he's going to chase and we throw a hanging slider and he hits it in the second deck.
"And Castillo, I think it's the fourth time against a left-handed hitter that he's come into the game and on the first pitch, he's hung a slider and the guy has hit it in the seats. That's the difference in the game for me plus the fact that Cecil showed very good command and he showed the ability to expand the strike zone. You saw we chased too many pitches out of the strike zone."
The Orioles, who don't seem to hit any left-handed pitcher, whether it's the Jays' recently demoted Dana Eveland, or the New York Yankees' ace CC Sabathia, are now 5-12 this season against southpaws with Ricky Romero looming in Sunday's series finale.
Cecil, who has surrendered just four earned runs in his last 21 2/3 innings, retired the first 10 Orioles in order and faced the minimum through 5 2/3 innings while protecting a 1-0 lead.
Number nine hitter Cesar Izturis got the Orioles' sixth-inning rally started with a two-out double. It was the team's first extra-base hit since Garrett Atkins' third-inning homer last Wednesday, a span of 107 at-bats. Julio Lugo then tied the game at one with an RBI single, giving the Orioles the lead and their first run in 16 2/3 innings.
Nick Markakis presented the Orioles with their first lead with a single to left field. But after striking out Miguel Tejada to keep the deficit at one, Cecil pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, needing just 14 pitches to do so.
"Maybe I ought to put some lead in the bats or something," said Trembley. "I don't know, [maybe] talk to the bats. I've really run out of things to say. I've juggled the lineup, I've put different guys in there. We have really prepared our guys as best as we possibly can and it just hasn't happened for us. You got to still believe that perhaps tomorrow will get it started and I won't give up believing in that."