Jays' bats don't fly as far as Orioles'
Toronto falls from first despite Rios' pinch-hit homer in ninth
BALTIMORE -- The baseball that Alex Rios sent arcing high into the Baltimore night on Monday merely served to mask an otherwise dismal evening for the Blue Jays' bats. Toronto's deficit was too large for Rios' ninth-inning home run to overcome alone.
Between the first and the final frames, the Blue Jays were simply shut down by Baltimore's arms, sending Toronto to a 4-3 defeat on a frigid night at Camden Yards. For Rios, it was the first time this season he was held out of the starting lineup, but manager John Gibbons summoned the right fielder from the bench in the ninth.
With one out on the board and Toronto's Dustin McGowan in line for a tough loss, Rios did all he could to steer the Blue Jays back in the right direction. Rios jumped on a 2-2 offering from Orioles closer George Sherrill, who was forced to turn and watch the ball come crashing down into the left-field stands for a two-run homer.
It was a classic case of too little, too late, though. Sherrill paid the blast no mind and promptly struck out Shannon Stewart and induced a lineout off the bat of Gregg Zaun for the game's final outs. There were few positives from Monday's loss for the Jays to focus on -- except perhaps that glimmer of ninth-inning hope.
"We made a scare," shrugged Gibbons, searching for a silver lining within the loss. "They out-pitched us. They out-played us. They out-hit us."
The Blue Jays (7-6) appeared to be fine on the offensive side during the game's opening inning. Toronto collected three consecutive base hits off Baltimore's Matt Albers, who was making his first start of the season after serving as a reliever, leading to one early run on an RBI single by Vernon Wells.
Toronto's Frank Thomas grounded into a double play to end the first, and Albers (1-1) went on to spin five strong innings, limiting the Jays to just two more hits along the way. Toronto's Lyle Overbay drew a leadoff walk off Albers in the second inning, but he only made it as far as second base.
Thomas singled for the Jays with one out in the fourth, but jogged back to the visitors' dugout following an inning-ending double play. Third baseman Joe Inglett's two-out single off Albers in the fifth was promptly canceled out by a fielder's-choice groundout by Toronto's David Eckstein.
"He basically shut us down," was all the explanation Gibbons could offer when asked about Albers.
After Albers' exit, a trio of Baltimore relievers followed suit, holding Toronto off the scoreboard through the eighth inning -- an ample window for the Orioles' offense to go to work. Baltimore churned out 13 hits, including 10 against McGowan, who has received just eight runs of support through three starts.
"I left a lot of pitches over the plate and they hit a lot of singles," McGowan said. "It felt like I was [pitching] out of the stretch almost the whole game."
Baltimore (8-5), which currently resides in first place in the American League East, managed three runs off McGowan (0-1), whose outing might've netted a victory on another night. The Toronto right-hander turned in six innings, striking out five and walking just one.
Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar was McGowan's primary tormentor all night. In the first, Millar erased Toronto's early lead with an RBI single that scored Brian Roberts. In the fifth inning, after McGowan issued a two-out walk to Nick Markakis, Millar deposited a 2-2 pitch from the righty over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
"I just hung a curveball," McGowan said. "That's all you can say about that one. He crushed it."
Millar's blast put the Blue Jays behind, 3-1, but it was an eighth-inning lapse by Toronto's bullpen that proved to be the decisive blow. Jays reliever Brian Tallet yielded a leadoff single to Aubrey Huff, who later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ramon Hernandez to up the Jays' deficit, 4-1.
"He had to work awful hard -- that's for sure," said Gibbons, referring to McGowan. "They threw a lot of hits at him and he was under pressure for most of the game. But he kept us in it. ... The other big add-on run late proved to be the difference."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.