TORONTO — An Orioles offense that hit nine homers in its previous three games struggled to scrape together any offense Saturday, and fell victim to the long ball in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
After manufacturing a run in the top of the ninth to tie the score, right-hander Tyler Wilson (1-1) yielded the walk-off homer to Kendrys Morales on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth.
The loss ended the Orioles’ three-game winning streak and was their first loss in five games against the Blue Jays this season.
The dramatic ending came after the Orioles (7-3) manufactured their only run in the ninth. Welington Castillo reached on an infield single to lead off the frame. Pinch runner Craig Gentry stole second and moved to third on Hyun Soo Kim’s flyout to left before coming home on Jonathan Schoop’s sacrifice fly to center.
Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said before the game that multiple relievers were unavailable Saturday, and Darren O’Day, Brad Brach and Zach Britton had all pitched the previous two nights. Showalter had Brach warming in the bullpen in the ninth, but stayed with Wilson.
Right-handed starter Alec Asher’s strong Orioles debut was foiled in the seventh inning, when the Blue Jays scored their first run on Darwin Barney’s RBI single off left-handed reliever Donnie Hart.
Asher, who was charged with one run over 6 1/3 innings, left the game with two runners on. Hart came on to face a lefty-heavy bottom of the Blue Jays batting order.
After Justin Smoak rocketed a hard-hit lineout to the warning track in center field, a ball deep enough to advance both runners but didn’t, Barney entered the game to pinch hit and looped a 1-0 change-up into center field.
Adam Jones’ throw home was on line to get Jose Bautista attempting to score from second base, but it skipped high off the Rogers Centre turf and off Castillo’s mitt as Bautista slid home safely.
Hart, who stranded 13 of 17 inherited runners last season, had stranded both of his previous inherited runners this season.
Asher’s debut came against baseball’s most struggling offense, but give the recently acquired right-hander credit for taking advantage.
Asher threw six scoreless innings against the Blue Jays before a run was charged to him after he left Saturday afternoon. He had a career-high five strikeouts on and just one walk.
The 25-year-old Asher, who was acquired in late March from the Philadelphia Phillies, continued the success he saw at the end of last season, when he posted a 2.28 ERA in five September starts.
Asher was called up to fill the Orioles’ starting rotation hole created by right-hander Chris Tillman opening the season on the disabled list. A series of early days off meant the Orioles didn’t need a fifth starter until Saturday.
Using the two-seam fastball that resuscitated his career, Asher kept a Blue Jays offense that entered the day ranked last in the majors in runs (2.8 per game) and team batting average (.199) off the bases.
Asher allowed just three hits on the afternoon, and after issuing a two-out walk to Morales in the first inning, he retired 15 of the next 16 hitters he faced.
— Baltimore Sun