The Toronto Blue Jays notched their 80th win of the season on Sunday, completing the sweep of Baltimore, with a 5-2 victory over the Orioles.
The Blue Birds are five games over the .500 mark with seven left to play, but manager Cito Gaston thinks that securing another win would make for a successful season.
“It’s very important,” Gaston said, in the post-game press conference. “I think if we can get that one win, it would be big. I don’t think anyone expected this club to play that well, and to play .500 baseball.
“Hopefully we get three or four more wins, but to get that one more and end the season as a .500 club. That would be a great year for us.”
John McDonald had a rare start in the game at shortstop, and he made it count, notching three RBIs.
Hitting from the nine spot, McDonald put the Jays [80-75] ahead 2-1 in the second with a sacrifice fly.
He extended Toronto’s lead in the sixth with a two-run single to centre, putting the Jays ahead 5-1. He tried to stretch the hit into a double, but was gunned down by Adam Jones at second for the third out of the inning.
Shaun Marcum [13-8] had a strong start for the Blue Jays. He lasted seven innings, and gave up an unearned run on four hits, walking two batters and striking out seven. He also hit a batter.
Gaston praised the performance of Marcum not only on the day, but for the season as well.
“Shaun Marcum went out and pitched a great game for us today and gave us a chance to win,” Gaston said. “And it wasn’t easy for him because he hasn’t pitched in about seven days, but he did do a good job for us.
“He’s done a good job for us all year.”
Tensions rose in the fifth inning when Jose Bautista came up to face Alfredo Simon, on in relief of starter Rick VandenHurk [0-1]. After being hit by a pitch one at-bat earlier, Bautista was plunked for a second time by the reliever.
Simon was immediately ejected from the game, followed by Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
The indication on the play was that home plate umpire Bill Welke had issued a warning to both benches earlier in the game, but there was no showing of such a warning. It could have happened either when Bautista was hit the first time, or in the fourth inning when Marcum hit Luke Scott.
VandenHurk lasted four innings, giving up three runs on four hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.
The right-handed pitcher was making his first start for Baltimore [61-94], after six relief appearances. He is the ninth starter the Orioles have sent to the mound this season.
Toronto scored their first run of the game almost immediately in the bottom of the first inning. Travis Snider walked to start it off, and the promptly stole second on the first pitch to the next batter, Aaron Hill.
With two outs, Vernon Wells came up and singled to centre to drive him in and put the Jays on the board.
Jones recorded the first hit of the game for the Orioles with a single to right. He then stole second, and on an errant throw by Toronto catcher John Buck, reached third. Matt Wieters brought him in with a sacrifice fly.
Shawn Camp came on in relief of Marcum. After recording one out, he allowed two straight singles. With two outs, he gave up another single to Jones, scoring a run, and making it 5-2. Jason Frasor finished the inning with a strikeout.
Frasor stayed on in the ninth to collect his fourth save of the season, despite having regular closer Kevin Gregg in the bullpen rested and ready to go.
Gregg hasn’t seen the mound since he was taken out of Friday night’s game with two outs in the ninth. He was taken out of the game mid-batter, with Gaston unimpressed at his showing.
The win against the Orioles marked the 14th straight victory at the Rogers Centre for the Jays dating back to Aug. 8, 2009. It ties a club record for most wins at home against any team.