Orioles lose series-opener to Blue Jays, and shot at AL's best record

September 26, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — Earning home-field advantage throughout the postseason was the Orioles' final goal of the regular season, but since winning the American League East 10 days ago, their greater focus was positioning themselves for a deep postseason run.

They chased the Los Angeles Angels down to the final three days of the regular season for the American League's best record, but following the Orioles' 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at the Rogers Centre, the Angels clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“It was something we were trying to attain, but in order to do it you need to get cooperation from [Los Angeles] and the team they're playing,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It was a little bit out of control but we never gave in to that. … It's a challenge to bridge what you want to accomplish with your team between now and then and also stay competitive. Our guys are engaged in it, but I'm not going to let it stand in the way of being as good as we can.”

Besides, that home-field advantage over the Angels only matters if the Orioles win their American League Division Series matchup — likely with the Detroit Tigers — first.

“Whether you're playing at home or away, it's not a given,” Showalter said. “We're going to have to figure out a way to win the first round and so is [Los Angeles], so you don't become a prisoner to that.”

The Orioles (95-65) were immersed in a playoff atmosphere this week in New York during Derek Jeter's final home series at Yankee Stadium, then flew north to play in front of thousands of empty blue seats against a Toronto team that once was their chief competition for the division, but had long since folded.

Showalter sat starters Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce as part of a rotation of rest that will continue through the series, which will be spent taking a closer look at players on the postseason roster bubble.Making his final start of the regular season — he will take the mound on Thursday in Game 1 of the ALDS at Camden Yards — Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman yielded a career-high 11 hits and allowed four runs over six innings as he lost his first road start of the season. He struck out five and walked none.

"I'm happy with how I felt,” Tillman said. “I felt like my delivery was pretty good and my fastball command was probably the best it has been all year. My changeup was there for me, my curveball was there. I can't take anything negative from it, I felt like I did what I had to do."

He entered the night unbeaten in 15 road starts, tied with Greg Maddux (1995) for most road starts without a loss in a single season since 1914.

Tillman's streak of 20 consecutive starts allowing three earned runs or fewer — a streak dating back to June 5 — was also snapped. It was tied for the longest streak in club history with Steve Barber's 20-start streak in 1965 and 1966.

Blue Jays rookie left fielder Dalton Pompey, one of Toronto's top prospects, hit two triples and a double off Tillman. Two of the hits came with two outs and drove in runs.

Pompey — a fast-rising, Canadian-born 21-year-old who started the season in Single-A — was promoted when rosters expanded this month and was making his eighth big league start on Friday for the Blue Jays (82-78).

“[Tillman] gave up some balls to Pompey,” Showalter said. “I made the mistake saying in Baltimore that I like the way this kid looks. … But it was more than that. We had a couple bunts we didn't defend very well. … You take two or three of those out, he's OK.

“I don't care how hard you try, the intensity level [is different],” Showalter added. “It's not just a matter of getting your work in, but at the same time you want to get him between 90 and 100 and stay engaged. He kept us engaged in that game.”

The Orioles jumped on Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison early, as three of the first four batters reached base, capped by Delmon Young's RBI single, which gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Hutchison got out of that inning by striking out Steve Clevenger and Kelly Johnson.

After making a diving catch in foul ground on Alejandro De Aza's tailing fly ball to left to end the top of the second inning, Pompey opened the bottom half of the inning with a triple into the right-center field gap that rolled to the wall.

Munenori Kawasaki pushed a bunt to the right side past Tillman for a base hit that scored Pompey to tie the game. Tillman escaped the second inning thanks to first baseman Clevenger's unassisted double play with the based loaded.

Pompey hit a two-out RBI double down the right field line in the third to give the Jays a 2-1 lead. He then scored from second on Kawasaki's infield single.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.