Blue Jays collapse against Orioles under broken Rogers Centre roof
Fans huddle under umbrellas as Orioles batter Nate McLouth follows through on a swing in front of Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Sept. 4, 2012. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)
Now, there's something you don't see every day at the Rogers Centre.
No, not Toronto Blue Jays victories, although that's a perceptive answer.
We're talking umbrellas.
It was hot and muggy at gametime between the Baltimore Orioles and Jays on Tuesday but still raining outside, so the roof remained closed. In the top of the third inning, the roof began to open, but the folks who made that call goofed.
An inning later, with the main roof panel fully open, it started to rain. Not a downpour, but a gentle shower nonetheless.
No problem. Just push the magic button and, shazam, the roof begins to close. It was at this time that the Rogers Centre's temperamental lid went into cardiac arrest. The game was never delayed, but rain fell throughout. The roof was stuck, leaving the infield and most of the crowd of 13,556 exposed to the rain until, inch-by-inch, the roof closed mechanically with the game almost over.
In one last bizarre, annoying twist, in the sixth inning, an alarm started to scream some meaningless warning for everyone's auditory enjoyment. Nice.
In this Jays season where everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, why are we not surprised?
All this was just a sideshow on the Jays' totally forgettable 75th loss of the year, a 12-0 whitewash by the -- NOW HEAR THIS -- first-place Orioles.
Yes, it's true.
That 10-game Yankees lead evaporated with New York's 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, and now they're in a dead-heat with the surging Orioles.
The O's pounded out 18 hits against three Toronto pitchers, 12 of them off relievers Aaron Loup and Chad Beck, for their 76th victory. This was a close game for four innings, with Carlos Villenueva looking like he was piling up more evidence to make his case for a new contract as a starter in the Jays rotation next year and beyond.
Villanueva was rolling along through four, allowing one hit, facing the minimum 12 batters. Mark Reynolds had the first hit for Baltimore, a broken-bat single leading off the third, but he was quickly erased on a double-play.
But in the fifth, the amazing, improbable Orioles started pounding the ball all over the park. It started with an Adam Jones double into right field. One out later, Chris Davis walked and Reynolds followed with a towering fly ball that skimmed over the left-field wall for his 17th home run, a three-run shot that was pretty much all they needed against a Jays team bereft of any offensive confidence.
Baltimore assured themselves victory by piling on in the second half of the game.
Villenueva was dismissed in the seventh inning, having allowed seven hits and six earned runs.
"You know I could say things about what happened out there, the roof and everything, but the fact is, everybody wants to do their job," said Villanueva. "I don't know if it got stuck or what but we definitely weren't prepared for that.
"It was a tough inning. My cleats were muddy but (the Orioles) dealt with it and they came out fine. It was definitely surprising. I was looking up, just waiting for the last bit to close and then the alarm went off. It was a very adventurous couple of innings."
Reliever Aaron Loup, who came in on a 10-scoreless-innings wave, was buried under a four-run avalanche in one-third of an inning. He balked in a run that was charged to Villanueva and then got tagged for four of his own.
Next up, Chad Beck. He was tagged for four hits and committed an error but gave up only two runs by inducing a bases-loaded double-play to end the inning.
In the end, Reynolds had driven in four runs with his 3-for-4 night to lead a Baltimore offence that had six starters with at least two hits. It was the home run that set the stage.
"I was hoping Rajai would climb the fence again. It was high. It wasn't the pitch I wanted. He's obviously powerful. Obviously that changed the game. We were both throwing well to that point," Villanueva said.
Meanwhile, Baltimore lefty Zach Britton completely shut down the Toronto offence, working seven shutout innings allowing just four hits and two walks. He struck out eight for his fifth win.
The missing link for Villanueva's bid to become a full-time starter is his ability to go deep into games. He seemed in good order to go out for the seventh inning in this one but didn't get the desired results.
"Carlos was at 82 pitches after the sixth inning," said Jays manager John Farrell. "In the seventh, a number of pitches were left up in the strike zone. He didn't have quite the finish down through the strike zone as he'd been showing previously."