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TOR@BAL: Hunter allows a run in six strong innings

BALTIMORE -- The short-handed Orioles knew they would need help from different places to have a shot at beating the Blue Jays in the series opener Tuesday night. Neck spasms again sidelined leadoff hitter Nolan Reimold while closer Jim Johnson remained in the hospital.

So Baltimore put together a very necessary team effort needed on this night.

Starter Tommy Hunter battled his way through six innings. Four relief pitchers took care of the final three innings with Pedro Strop earning his first Major League save, and Matt Wieters hit a tie-breaking homer in the fourth that stood up as the Orioles edged the Blue Jays, 2-1, Tuesday night before 11,058 at Oriole Park.

Reimold was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game with slow-healing neck spasms. Johnson went to the hospital late Monday night while battling some kind of virus. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that, during the fourth inning, he was told Johnson remained hospitalized and they're still waiting on bacterial reports to decide the best way to attack the closer's illness.

That's why the Orioles (10-7) needed everyone to pitch in. Hunter (2-1) bounced back from giving up eight runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last start at Chicago by allowing one run on three hits in six innings in this game. The right-hander wasn't completely sharp, striking out three and walking three and needing 103 pitches to do so in those six innings, but he kept the Orioles in front.

"He's going to keep firing bullets," Showalter said. "Here it is. It's not ever going to be lack of aggressive[ness] or getting in the fight or getting in the competition."

Hunter wasn't thrilled with his control issues, especially the three walks, each of which came early in three separate innings.

But Hunter got deep into the game on a night when the Orioles needed the starter to eat a bunch of innings.

"I still got myself into a few more jams than I would have [liked], letting guys get on base for free," Hunter said. "That's not good. It's not fun. We got a win. I'm happy about that, don't get me wrong, but I've got some things to do. I'll get better."

Showalter and Wieters both said that Hunter worked hard and found success on a night where he didn't have his best stuff. And that set everything up for the bullpen.

Troy Patton and Darren O'Day combined to get through the seventh. Luis Ayala threw a shutout eighth before Strop struck out two in the ninth.

"[Hunter] made pitches when he had to," Wieters said. "Then the bullpen came in and did a great job for us."

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first against Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez (0-2). Endy Chavez singled and went to third when J.J. Hardy followed with a double. Alvarez then walked Nick Markakis to load the bases.

Adam Jones came up next and grounded into a double play. But Chavez scored to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. The Jays tied it when Eric Thames crushed a solo homer to right off Hunter in the third. Thames sent a 410-foot blast on to Eutaw Street in right -- the 58th player in Oriole Park to do so.

But the Orioles took the lead back in bottom of the fourth when Wieters sliced a solo homer just over the left-field fence. Thames raced over to the fence and tried to make a leaping catch, but the ball nicked his glove and went into the stands.

"It was going to hit the top of the wall," Thames said. "I reached up to catch it and it hit off my glove and went into the seats. It's as simple as that. It hit my glove and then I heard the crowd, so I looked up and saw it was in the seats, and of course, [felt] intense anger."

The homer came with two outs in the fourth and neither team really caused much trouble again. Toronto (10-7) never even had a batter come to the plate with a runner in scoring position the entire game.

Strop closed it out for the Orioles, often throwing in the high 90s en route to that first save. He struck out Thames to end it and give the Orioles a true team victory.

"When I first got to the ballpark, I heard that J.J. was in the hospital," Strop said. "In my mind, I'm saying: 'You might be the guy,' because I wasn't sure. It's amazing. It feels good."

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