BALTIMORE – The games are getting more intense, more meaningful. Even though the Orioles still have 95 games to play, they’re in a stretch of 13 straight games against each of their American League East opponents.
On a lovely Saturday, the Orioles won an intense 3-2 game over the Toronto Blue Jays before 33,901, and there were so many things to talk about.
There was Bud Norris providing the Orioles’ sixth straight quality start. Chris Davis hitting a key two-run home run. Then there was the first review of the new home plate collision rule.
The Orioles (35-32) have won four of the first six games played against Boston and Toronto, and are now within 3 ½ of the first place Jays.
“The summer starts. It’s starting to heat up. These games start to gain a real importance, especially going into the All-Star break,” Adam Jones said.
Davis broke a 1-1 tie with his two-run shot deep into the Orioles bullpen in left center off R.A. Dickey (6-5). It was his 11th homer of the year.
Last year was a dream year for the slugger with 53 home runs. This year has been much different with an oblique injury and a .228 average.
“There's no change in my approach and my work. I've been doing everything I can to try to get back to feeling good in the box. I felt the last couple of days I've started to click a little bit. Didn't have a lot of show for it. But it was big. I know the way Bud was throwing the ball, if we could get a few runs he would hang in there,” Davis said.
In his last two starts, Norris (6-5) has allowed one run in 14 2/3 innings. He gave up one on seven hits in 6 2/3, walking one and striking out five.
After Brett Lawrie’s fourth inning single, Norris retired 10 straight before he was removed after two out singles by Anthony Gose and Jose Reyes in the seventh.
I was a little shaky, wasn’t great particularly early but started finding my stride,” Norris said. “To keep that team at bay for as many as I did was great, and the bullpen picked me up.”
In the last six games, Orioles starters have allowed just five runs in 39 2/3 innings.
“It's been at a level that, if we can stay there, will allow you to compete late in the season. Simple as that,” manager Buck Showalter said. “In order to accomplish what we want to get accomplished, this is the type of consistency we're going to have to have.”
Toronto scored its run in the second. Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion singled. With one out, Lawrie was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Norris walked Josh Thole, and the Blue Jays (40-30) led 1-0.
The Orioles tied the score in the fourth. With one out, Delmon Young singled. He took third on Ryan Flaherty’s single and scored on Nick Hundley’s sacrifice fly to center.
With one out in the fifth, Jones grounded to third. Juan Francisco’s throw to first was wild, and on the way to second, Jones upended first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Davis followed with his long home run.
Darren O’Day replaced Norris and retired Melky Cabrera on a grounder to short to end the inning.
In the eighth, O’Day hit Jose Bautista with a pitch. With one out, Encarnacion doubled to left. Bautista tried to come home and was ruled out on a relay throw by J.J. Hardy. The play was reviewed for a violation of the collision rule. It was ruled that Hundley did not block the plate, and the call stood.
Brian Matusz walked Steve Tolleson, and Ryan Webb allowed a run-scoring single to Lawrie. Josh Thole lined to Cruz in left, and the Orioles held to a 3-2 lead.
The Orioles have won five of nine against the Blue Jays this season.
“They're always intense. Anytime you play a division opponent you want to win those games. Obviously the position we're in and the position these guys are in, you can gain some ground. So there's a little more emphasis on going out there and getting a win,” Davis said.
Zach Britton pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
“Both teams are competitive, and I think very similar, and it’s going to be a battle, and hopefully we can still have this conversation in mid-September, and we’re in the same situations,” Jones said.
NOTES: Nick Markakis’ first inning single was his 1,454th hit, one away from Ken Singleton, who’s in sixth place on the all-time Orioles’ list. … Lind left the game in the eighth with a bruised foot. … Chris Tillman (5-3, 4.91) faces J.A. Happ (5-3, 4.37) on Sunday.