BALTIMORE – Miguel Gonzalez heads home to California on Sunday with a big smile on his face. During the season that’s about to end, Gonzalez won 11 games, and perhaps saved his best for last.
On Thursday night, Gonzalez threw seven superb innings, allowing just two hits, and could have gone further if not for two errors behind him.
The Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays before 27,498 at Oriole Park was their second since being eliminated from the postseason picture.
While the Orioles would certainly have liked Gonzalez’s dominance in a game that truly meant something, they can still be satisfied with it.
“Let's face it, there's a little bit of a drop. There's some pressure involved, and it's good pressure. There's a little bit less of that. But I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves to maintain a certain level of competitiveness,” manager Buck Showalter said.
On Friday, Boston comes in for three games. While the Red Sox have clinched the AL East, they still haven’t assured themselves of home field advantage for a possible ALCS. Those games will matter to Boston, Oakland and to the Orioles.
“I've had two or t questions from them today about what the mathematics are for Boston and Oakland, and I have no doubt that our guys will post up competitively the next three days. I know what it meant for us last year and this year. From an effort and attention, we'll do our part,” Showalter said.
After Toronto (72-87) scored a run in the first without a hit, Gonzalez was simply dominating. He allowed a walk to his second batter, Munenori Kawasaki, who scored from first with two outs when Jason Pridie dropped a routine fly ball.
Kevin Pillar led off the third with a single and advanced to second when Jose Reyes reached on Jonathan Schoop’s error. After that, Gonzalez (11-8) retired 13 in a row until J.P. Arencibia’s single with one out in the seventh. He struck out five.
"Miggy's solid. He's a guy that's going to go out there every fifth day and give you a chance to win, which is all you can ask for for a team and like I said, he's a fun guy to catch," Matt Wieters said.
Gonzalez’s start was one of the best of any Orioles pitcher.
“We've had some good ones. Tillman's made a ton of them, [Scott Feldman] made a couple of them in a row that were really good. It's up there. It's a good start. Any time you can go seven-plus and keep us in the game is a good start," Wieters said.
Gonzalez missed time in May with a blister on his right thumb. He came out of a game in Cleveland earlier this month after his groin tightened.
He was able to finish his season with one of his best starts.
“You learn when you have some struggles. You work on things you need to work on in between starts. I thought we did a pretty good job of that and finishing strong. It made me happy,” Gonzalez said.
Tommy Hunter allowed a run on three hits in the eighth. Pillar and Reyes started the inning with singles. After Kawasaki flied to deep center, Brett Lawrie doubled to score Pillar. With runners on second and third, Hunter struck out Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose to end the inning.
Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his 48th save of the season.
Wieters led off the second with a home run off Mark Buehrle (12-10). It was his 22nd of the season.
The Orioles (83-76) took a 3-1 lead in the third. Nick Markakis drove in Brian Roberts, who led off with an infield single. With one out, Adam Jones singled, and Markakis scored on Wieters’ sacrifice fly to left.
Wieters has 12 sacrifice flies, the most in the majors.
“It’s a cool stat to lead the league in I guess. Any time you get a man on third with less than two outs, you feel like it’s your job to get them in,” Wieters said.
Buehrle left the game in the fourth after Steve Pearce lined a ball at his right calf, bruising it. He was replaced by Chad Jenkins. Jenkins and Steve Delabar combined to limit the Orioles to one hit in 4 2/3 innings.
NOTES: Scott Feldman (5-5, 3.57) faces Clay Buchholz (11-1, 1.60) in the opener of the three-game series against Boston.
-Showalter expects Chris Davis, who sat out with a sore right foot, to play this weekend.
“We'll take it day to day, see how he feels in the morning. He did tell me in the 8th or 9th inning that this sitting stuff, he didn't like it too much,” Showalter said.