Jays' win adds exclamation point to road trip
Four homers seal sweep of Orioles, 5-1 start
BALTIMORE -- Two swings, seven pitches apart, were all it took for the Blue Jays to bring an emphatic end to an impressive road trip. Jose Bautista went first and Alex Gonzalez followed, launching back-to-back home runs into the left-field seats at Camden Yards to ignite a Toronto rally on Sunday afternoon.
It was an eighth-inning outburst that overcame what had been an otherwise quiet day for Toronto's offense, and a sudden surge that helped propel the Blue Jays to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles. Another late comeback -- this time with four runs coming in the final two innings -- sealed a three-game series sweep over the O's and gave Toronto five wins in its six-game tour through Texas and Baltimore.
"We've had some late magic," Blue Jays reliever Casey Janssen said with a smile.
Janssen has been reaping the benefits of the Blue Jays' propensity for late-game dramatics, too. The reliever used all of nine pitches to run through three Baltimore hitters in a swift seventh inning, but it was Janssen who walked away the victor. As unlikely as Toronto's hot start might seem to some, it is even more odd that Janssen is now the Major League leader with three wins.
That has been the result of the way the Blue Jays have scratched out wins on their season-opening road trip. Toronto's starting pitchers have been posting quality starts (Shaun Marcum yielded two first-inning runs over six solid frames in a no-decision Sunday), the offense has been doing just enough, and the bullpen has faced a save situation in each of the first six games of the season.
It has been the type of formula Toronto can only hope to see as the season wears on.
"The starters are doing well, and so is the back end of the bullpen, holding leads when we get them," Marcum said. "And the offense, they're leaving it all out there on the line. They're battling every at-bat. They're not giving at-bats away, and when they're getting their pitch to hit, they're hitting it."
Gonzalez led the latest attack with two home runs against Baltimore right-hander Kevin Millwood, who limited the Blue Jays (5-1) to one run over the first seven innings. Millwood's lone blip early on came in the form of a solo shot off Gonzalez's bat in the fourth inning, cutting the Orioles' lead to 2-1. That slim advantage fell apart for Baltimore in the eighth inning.
"A one-run lead in this league is nothing with the kind of offense we've got," Gonzalez said.
The Blue Jays' late push began when second baseman John McDonald -- filling in nicely for the injured Aaron Hill by going 3-for-4 at the plate -- hit a sharp ground ball down the third-base line. Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada bobbled the ball after it took a bad bounce and was charged with an error, allowing McDonald to reach safely.
"I know they gave Tejada an error on that ball, but that ball took a bad hop," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's going to be the guy to wear it today, but it certainly took a bad hop, and that should be a base hit."
No matter how it was scored, the Blue Jays took advantage.
Bautista followed by drilling a 1-2 pitch deep to left field for a two-run homer that pushed Toronto to a 3-2 lead. Gonzalez then delivered a solo homer to left to increase the Jays' advantage to two runs. It marked Gonzalez's first multihomer game since 2007 and gave the shortstop four homers through six games this year. Edwin Encarnacion kept the rally going with a solo shot of his own in the ninth inning.
In the six road games against the Rangers and Orioles (1-5), the Blue Jays scored 12 of their 28 runs in the eighth or ninth inning. The three late home runs on Sunday also gave Toronto five homers in the eight or ninth inning over the same stretch. The Blue Jays feel their offense has the potential to enjoy similar bursts all season long.
"Everybody knows that we're capable of hitting the long ball," Bautista said. "We might not have one guy that hits 45-50 homers, but we have a bunch of guys that can hit over 20. It's always fun watching all of us hit, because at any time any of us can hit a home run."
The Blue Jays understand it is very early, but they are enjoying the positives of the season's first trip.
Toronto picked up two series wins, the starting rotation posted a 3.00 ERA with five quality starts, and the bullpen managed five saves. Beyond that, the Blue Jays posted four comeback wins, and three of the first six contests were decided in the ninth inning.
Now, the Jays get to go home.
"It's going to be fun to get back to Toronto," Marcum said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.