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BAL@TOR: Encarnacion slugs a solo shot to center

TORONTO -- At least on paper, there was the potential for a pitchers' duel on Friday night. Instead, the Blue Jays and Orioles matchup turned into a slugfest.

The teams combined for seven solo home runs in a back-and-forth affair where momentum seemed to shift with every inning.

But in the end, it was a seeing-eye single up the middle by Wilson Betemit in the top of the eighth inning against lefty Darren Oliver that sent the Blue Jays to a 7-5 loss to the Orioles at Rogers Centre.

"You can't be perfect every night," Oliver said after suffering his first loss of the season. "You go out there and compete and sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. It's over, we just have to focus on trying to get them tomorrow."

The troublesome eighth inning began when Jason Frasor surrendered a leadoff single to Nolan Reimold that went just under the glove of Yunel Escobar at shortstop. Two batters later, Oliver entered the game and eventually allowed an infield single before striking out Adam Jones.

That put runners on first and third with two outs for Matt Wieters. Baltimore's slugging catcher entered the game with a .364 average and two homers in six games this season and that was enough to scare the Blue Jays away.

Pitching coach Bruce Walton went to the mound and it was decided that they weren't going to let Wieters beat them. Oliver walked the fourth-year catcher on five pitches to put the go-ahead run on second base as the club wanted to take its chances with Betemit.

Betemit responded with a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw, which scored two runs and snapped Toronto's mini two-game winning streak.

"He's one of the hotter hitters going on right now, so obviously you kind of want to stay away from him and go after the next guy that's maybe not swinging as hot of a bat," Oliver said of Wieters. "But it seemed like everybody was swinging a hot bat tonight. So I probably should have faced Wieters instead of Betemit, maybe I might have had better luck."

The decision to stick with Oliver against Betemit -- instead of going with Casey Janssen out of the bullpen -- ultimately came down to numbers. Betemit has a career OPS of .814 against right-handers, compared to a mark of .684 against lefties.

The Orioles have seen that strategy before and weren't surprised by the move. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter even agreed with it.

"Wilson's had a couple of big hits for us right-handed and I know exactly what their manager was thinking," Showalter said. "I would have done the same thing. His better side is left-handed. We were fortunate tonight that things didn't follow the norm."

The late-inning collapse took all of the attention away from a productive night at the plate for Toronto's offense. The Blue Jays entered play on Friday with four home runs in six games and by the sixth inning they had matched that mark against Baltimore's Tommy Hunter.

It started in the first, as second baseman Kelly Johnson sent an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left field for his second home run of the year. The Blue Jays added two more in the fifth on solo shots by Colby Rasmus and Escobar.

The Blue Jays went ahead 5-4 in the sixth as designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion sent a pitch into the seats in left-center field for his second of the year. The four home runs allowed by Baltimore's Tommy Hunter -- all solo shots -- tied his career high, as he also gave up four on Aug. 13, 2010 against Boston.

Hunter was charged with five runs on six hits while striking out two and walking two. He threw 56 of his 84 pitches for strikes.

"Kind of an odd game in here tonight," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "The way the ball was flying out of the ballpark, the number of home runs that were hit ... I liked the way we swung the bats."

Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow also struggled to keep the ball in the park. Baltimore's Robert Andino and Adam Jones each hit solo home runs as part of the four runs charged to Morrow in seven innings.

The home run total against Morrow could have been worse, with a number of drives coming up just short of the wall. He was aided by some strong defense in the outfield as Eric Thames, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista all made catches on the warning track. Morrow allowed six hits while striking out four.

"We didn't throw too many curveballs, I had a pretty good slider," Morrow said. "This team I've had good success with my slider in the past, so we stuck with that for the most part."

"Solo home runs usually aren't going to beat you. I did my job, got us through the seventh with the lead."

It's the first time since July 20, 2010, that two teams have combined to hit at least seven homers and all were solos.

"It's kind of early but you just go out there and do the best that you can," Oliver said. "Obviously, there are going to be games like this tonight. Unfortunately it just didn't go our way but hopefully most of the time it will. Just keep battling." Comments