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Blue Jays save face by edging out Orioles

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The long balls, the big innings and lopsided scores produced in the opening two games of this series were replaced on Wednesday by a night of tense baseball.

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The Blue Jays, for once, gave themselves a fighting chance against a Baltimore Orioles team that had pummeled them into submission by a combined score of 17-3 in winning the first two contests.

The third of this four-game set — won 3-2 by the Blue Jays — evoked memories of Toronto’s recent visit to Baltimore, when each game was decided by a similar score, the teams splitting a two-game set.

With the Rogers Centre roof closed, the Jays responded to a 2-0 deficit in the top of the second inning on Wednesday by scoring twice themselves in the bottom.

Despite the closeness of the game, a welcome change for many, the night didn’t have that buzz. At least it was competitive and far from a foregone conclusion, which characterized the previous two games.

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Toronto used its final at-bats in the home half of the inning ninth inning to seize the night and thus avoid being swept. And the Jays have positioned themselves to earn a split with the series finale scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Yimi Garcia came up big with two strikeouts in a clean ninth, but the night’s big star was Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who drove in two runs, including the game-winner.

Justin Turner led off the ninth with his third hit of the night. Cavan Biggio pinch-ran for him and after Craig Kimbrel’s pickoff throw went awry, scampered down to second.

Alejandro Kirk’s fly ball to right got Biggio to third before Kiner-Falefa launched a ball to deep right over a drawn-in Orioles outfield to plate the winning run.

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JOSE OKAY

Hard to be critical of the way Jose Berrios pitched in what was essentially a must-win for the Jays.

Save for that one inning that resulted in two runs — including a solo homer from Anthony Santander — Berrios was solid enough, giving up six hits and three walks in six innings, while striking out only two.

When he faced the O’s in Baltimore last month, Berrios tossed seven complete innings, an outing that featured two runs yielded on three hits.

In seven starts against the O’s during his time in Toronto, Berrios has gone 4-1.

Berrios did leave in a 2-2 game before he made way for Tim Mayza.

At the end of the day, a case can be made that Berrios gave his team a chance, which is all one can ask, especially after the Jays needed to resort to an opener Tuesday followed by a reliever who had just been reinstated from the injured list.

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GREAT EIGHT

When Santander took Berrios deep in the top of the second inning, it was Baltimore’s eighth home run of the series.
In the opener, Austin Hays went yard twice, a feat Ryan Mountcastle, who is known for his belts against the Jays, repeated in Tuesday’s game.

For Santander, who was at DH Wednesday, it was his second dinger of the series. His long ball also increased Baltimore’s homer total to 92 on the season.

The O’s entered Wednesday’s play ranked second in the bigs in going deep, trailing the New York Yankees by one.

Baltimore leads baseball in the power category by featuring four players who have hit at least 10 this season.

BOOK IT

Under the category of not-so surprising comes news the Jays went scoreless in the first inning, which has been par for the course.

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For those who have lost track of time, the Jays extended their franchise mark without scoring a run in the first inning to 27 games in a row.

At the same time, the team has been quite accomplished at scoring runs in the second inning, which led to the game being tied.

The sequence featured hitters who have been scuffling for what seems like most of the season in George Springer, Turner and Kirk.

The trio teamed up to get the Jays on the scoreboard on Kirk’s shallow sacrifice fly.

IKF, who was batting in the No. 8 hole, tied the game with an RBI single.

FIRST FOR SUAREZ

After facing Grayson Rodriguez and Corbin Burnes in the opening two games of the series, the Jays went up against Albert Suarez.

For the right-hander, it was his first-career start against the Blue Jays. The 34-year-old spent the previous five seasons pitching in Japan and Korea and has been a jack of all trades for the O’s, who have Dean Kremer (right triceps strain) on the injured list, while starters John Means and Tyler Wells are each on the shelf for the balance of the season following elbow injuries.

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In his most recent appearance, Suarez did not factor into the decision after going five innings against AL East rival Tampa.

The 96 pitches thrown by Suarez were his most in nearly eight years.

Through five innings against the Jays, Suarez had thrown 84 pitches.

His 84th pitch turned out to be his final on the night.

When the Jays took their swings in the home half of the sixth inning, the Orioles had Jacob Webb on the mound.
Webb served up a double to Bichette on a 2-2 count that went just inside the line at third base and into left field. It was Bichette’s 11th double of the season.

He couldn’t advance when Springer lined out to second and neither when Turner grounded out to third.

Kirk did send a liner into right field for a single, but Bichette wisely decided not to head home.

When IKF then stepped up to the plate, he had runners at the corner with a chance to give the Jays the lead but would strike out swinging on three pitches.

fzicarelli@postmedia.com

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