BALTIMORE — The Toronto Blue Jays staggered out of Camden Yards, their playoff chances whittled down to a mere mathematical possibility after a spirit-crushing sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.
Steve Pearce hit two homers and had four RBIs as the Orioles beat J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays 6-1 Wednesday night.
Very little went right for Toronto during its stay in Charm City. After a 5-2 loss in the opener, the Blue Jays watched in dismay as Baltimore clinched the AL East title with an 8-2 victory on Tuesday.
In the finale, Pearce hit a solo shot in the third inning and a three-run drive in the fifth for a 4-0 lead. That gave him three homers and seven RBIs over two games.
“The key to the series was being able to get Pearce out,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He burned us last night, then again tonight. In a lot of ways that’s a big, big part of the game right there.”
The Blue Jays are six games out in the race for the second wild card with 11 games to play. They open a four-game series against the Yankees on Thursday night.
“It was a terrible series for us, plain and simple, but we’re going to a place where we need to go and win some games,” Happ said. “We need to take advantage of the time we have. We’re still playing for something.”
“We’re all competitors and we don’t like to lose,” Gibbons said.
Happ (9-11) gave up both homers to Pearce and lost his third straight start. Toronto pitchers have surrendered home runs in seven straight games.
“They are where they are at for a reason,” Happ said. “They are playing at a high level right now all around.”
Jose Reyes drove in a seventh-inning run for the Blue Jays, who have lost four in row.
In the bottom of the seventh, Aaron Sanchez threw a high, inside pitch that sent Pearce to the ground. Then, for the third time in three games, the plate umpire warned both teams about throwing at batters.
“No intention,” Sanchez said. “Just sailed on me.”
It was the 10th win in 11 games for the Orioles, who have a shot to earn home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Baltimore started the day three games behind the Los Angeles Angels with 11 to play.
Still, Orioles manager Buck Showalter began the process of resting some of his regulars, including Nick Markakis. Pearce took over in right field and Christian Walker made his major league debut at first base.
Walker doubled in the seventh for his first hit, and Baltimore completed its third sweep in five series this month.
The Orioles lead the AL East by 14 1/2 games, their biggest cushion since Oct. 1, 1970.
David Lough homered for Baltimore in the eighth, the team’s major league-leading 199th of the season.
Bud Norris (14-8) allowed two hits and five walks in 5 1-3 scoreless innings to improve to 4-0 lifetime against Toronto. His performance came after a night in which the players drenched each other in champagne and beer in a celebration that lasted well past midnight.
“I tried to get as much sleep as I could,” Norris said. “I was still pretty excited and everything else. Tried to get some rest and just come to the ballpark, kind of go through the routine. We’ve already clinched, but like I said I want to go out there and do my part and keep auditioning for the post-season.”
Toronto rookie Marcus Stroman is appealing a six-game suspension he received for throwing at the head of Baltimore’s Caleb Joseph on Monday.
“I would never intentionally throw at anyone,” Stroman insisted.
But Showalter, who previously criticized Stroman for the pitch, said, “I had a lot of confidence MLB would look at it and do what needs to be done.”
Blue Jays: Toronto opens its final road series of the year Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays (36-41) are already assured their 11th consecutive losing season on the road.
Orioles: Baltimore gets a day off Thursday before playing its final 10 games of the regular season, beginning Friday with a three-game home series against Boston.