TORONTO – Edwin Encarnacion put the Toronto Blue Jays in position to enjoy a laugher. The wiggle room ended up coming in handy.
Brandon Morrow nearly let the Baltimore Orioles back into what became a one-sided affair, but a tidy bit of relief work from Brett Cecil in the eighth and some add-on runs in the bottom of the frame ensured all ended well in a 12-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, their third win in four outings.
“We’ve been on a nice little roll, playing some pretty good baseball, we really have,” said manager John Gibbons. “Morrow fell behind but he kept us in there, late in the game, maybe a couple of long half-innings might have taken its toll on him … but then Cecil did what he’s been doing all year.
“He stopped it right there, which is very important.”
Things got tighter than they needed to be when Morrow, sailing through a solid if unspectacular night to that point, surrendered back-to-back home runs to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones that made it an 8-6 game.
Manager John Gibbons came to get Morrow before Jones had even finished circling the bases, and Cecil settled things down by retiring the next three batters. The Blue Jays proceeded to tack on four more runs in the bottom of the frame, helped along by a J.J. Hardy error and a controversial safe call on Anthony Gose's slide home on a wild pitch, to put things away for good.
"You don't want to make things too complicated," Cecil said of his inning. "I want to get outs as quick as possible, and get my offence back in the dugout ready to hit."
Encarnacion's fifth career grand slam - and the first for the Blue Jays this year - opened up an 8-3 lead in the sixth inning and appeared to have settled things after the Orioles staked promising rookie Kevin Gausman to a 3-0 lead in his big-league debut.
"I was waiting for an AB like that with runners in scoring position that can make my day and make my team win the game," said Encarnacion. "For me I always like to hit with runners on base, it's different. When you hit with runners on base you have a different approach, different mindset at the plate."
Gausman survived his first time through the order but was roughed up through his second and third, as J.P. Arencibia's RBI double and Emilio Bonifacio's sacrifice fly in the fourth made it a 3-2 game, and Arencibia's two-run blast in the fifth pushed the Blue Jays ahead for good.
The Blue Jays were 4-for-8 hitting with runners in scoring position.
"Any time you have runners on base, people pitch differently," said Arencibia. "It's not easy. It's not a comfortable feeling when guys are on base. Definitely when no one's on, it's a little bit different. You're from the windup. There's a lot of things that go into it."
WHERE THINGS STAND: The Blue Jays (20-27) improved to 2-2 this season against the Orioles (25-22) before a Rogers Centre crowd of 21,466 with their seventh win in 10 outings. Baltimore had won two straight after a six-game losing streak.
Sean Nolin makes his big-league debut for the Blue Jays on Friday against Chris Tillman (3-2, 2.52).
MORROW'S LINE: Brandon Morrow pitched far better than his line of six runs over seven innings would suggest, holding the Orioles to three runs through six innings to give the offence a chance to break out.
In his last start Robinson Cano was the right-hander's bane and this night it was Manny Machado, who doubled in three straight at-bats, including one that brought home two in the third. Chris Davis added a solo shot in the fourth but Morrow shut the door there once the Blue Jays started rallying off Kevin Gausman until an Alexi Casilla sacrifice fly in the seventh and the two homers in the eighth.
"I was rolling pretty good through there and kind of had my sights set on finishing the game," said Morrow. "It's frustrating for me to go out and give up the two home runs without getting an out there in the eighth. It's a good win but it put a sour taste in my mouth."
OLIVER SORE: Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver has been dealing with soreness in his shoulder for the past 7-10 days and said the injury isn't improving.
Aaron Loup on Wednesday and Brett Cecil on Thursday pitched in spots that usually would have gone to Oliver, but the shoulder is "sore enough to where I can't go out there and play," he said.
Asked if the discomfort has eased at all, he replied, "It's kind of been the same, really," and when asked it a DL stint might be needed, he said, "I don't know. I'm sure we'll talk about it at some point."
Oliver last pitched Saturday in New York, allowing a homer and striking out two in an inning of work. Before that, he hadn't been on the mound since May 11 at Boston, when he gave up a run on two hits and a walk in his inning of work.
"I've pitched through it a few times," said Oliver. "Maybe I'm just getting old, who knows."
McLOUTH ALL OUT: Nate McLouth made a tremendous catch in the sixth, chasing down Colby Rasmus' fly ball down the left field line at full speed, snaring it, and then flying into the stands.
Once he ended up in the seats, several fans in the area made the safe signal but McLouth showed the ball and was credited with the out. Once the call was made, a fan threw a drink on the field near McLouth, prompting Orioles manager Buck Showalter to run all the way to the outfield to discuss the matter with crew chief Wally Bell.
"It's unfortunate but the umpires and security guards did what they had to do," said Showalter. "Unfortunately, it happens in ballparks now and again. It's usually one person and security is able to do what they do. We have moved on."