Blue Jays killed by Orioles' long ball routine
Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis high-fives teammate Trey Mancini after hitting a solo home run during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Baltimore on April 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
BALTIMORE — Together, Adam Jones and Chris Davis have the potential to be a formidable slugging force in the Orioles lineup, whoever their opponent might be.
But when they face the Blue Jays, these bad birds jump off the scoresheet and out of the park with more regularity than any active batters in baseball.
A two-run shot from Jones and a solo blast from Davis did all the damage in Wednesday’s 3-1 Orioles win at Camden Yards, sweeping the Jays to an 0-2 start to the 2017 season.
For Davis, it was his 36th homer against this AL East rival and the 33rd from Jones, far more than anyone else has hit against the Jays of those still swinging a bat.
“That’s what they do probably better than anybody in baseball,” Jays manager John Gibbons said of a prolific Orioles attack that led the majors with 253 homers last year. “That’s the difference in the two games — they hit the three homers.”
Add to the fact that both Jones and Davis have had their run-ins with Jays slugger Jose Bautista in the past and the result drew even more pleasure from the skimpy crowd of 16,086 at the Yards.
The Jays managed 18 hits in the two games, including seven in Wednesday’s swift two-hour, 23-minute affair.
But sprinkled over too many innings and without the killer blow, they essentially wasted solid starts from J.A. Happ on Wednesday and Marco Estrada in Monday’s 3-2 opening-day loss.
Gibbons isn’t about to panic — nor should he — but the stutter start offensively sent the team south to Florida where, with Marcus Stroman on the mound, they’ll seek their first win of the season in Thursday’s opener of a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.
But Gibbons is willingly transparent to acknowledge that if his team is going to be a factor in the AL East, it’ll have to do it with offence. It’s a reality now, fresh in their minds, given the manner in which the Orioles finished off the sweep.
Besides the two blasts on Wednesday, of course, a Mark Trumbo walkoff homer in the 11th inning of Monday’s curtain-raiser was the killer blow.
“They beat us with what we also do,” Gibbons said. “That’s the reality of it. We’ll hit.”
It wasn’t as if the Jays didn’t have their chances, including in the ninth inning when they loaded up the bases against O’s ace reliever, Zach Britton, with one out. But when former Oriole Steve Pearce ground into an inning-ending double play, Britton had his 50th career save.
Even beleaguered first baseman Justin Smoak was contributing, recording a single and a double.
And the Jays had some help defensively from Kevin Pillar, who tracked down a Manny Machado liner to deep centre that would have either been a homer or extra bases until the centre-field star made the leaping, crashing snag off the wall.
“They’re tough, they’re a power lineup, no doubt about it,” said Happ, the Jays’ 20-game winner from a season ago who had built up an 8-1 record against AL East opponents in that breakthrough season. “We knew that going in. A bloop and a blast was enough tonight.”
The bloop, from Happ’s view, was the two-run Jones homer where the lanky lefty “felt like I made my pitch,” only to see the O’s centre fielder just muscle it over the short wall in left.
The blast was a Davis hit that sailed over the 418-foot marker in deep centre field on a pitch Happ said he was attempting to be aggressive with.
Overall, Happ had a solid night working seven innings and allowing just five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. It was his first loss in six consecutive starts against the Orioles and the first time he hadn’t issued a walk since last June.
“Overall, I felt like i was throwing a lot of strikes and that’s a good sign,” Happ said. “I feel like if I pitch like that, good things are going to happen more often than not.”
As solid as Happ was, Orioles starter Dylan Bundy edged towards spectacular and wasn’t yielding anything of damage to the Jays. The up-and-comer of the Baltimore staff went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. In just his 15th career start, Bundy also registered eight of the 11 Orioles strikeouts against a frustrated Jays attack.
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson may be most indicative of the Jays near miss offence at this point. While he had three of those strikeouts, he also had a single, giving him four hits in two games.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales also had a hit — a single in that ill-fated ninth-inning rally — but in each of his two games as a Jay, he has a had a loud fly-ball out to the warning track.
“I’ve felt like we’ve been hitting the ball good,” Donaldson said. “A lot of balls that are being hit hard but just not producing.”