BALTIMORE — A tight, low-scoring game on a chilly night at Camden Yards came down to one pivotal swing of the bat.
Nick Markakis singled home the winning run with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Baltimore Orioles a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
The last-place Blue Jays wasted a strong pitching performance by J.A. Happ in their first meeting with the Orioles this season.
“We battled, but they played just as well and came out on top with the big hit there at the end,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Happ and Orioles starter Chris Tillman matches zeros for the first five innings, and both ended up allowing only one run. Happ yielded four hits in six-plus innings, walking two and striking out six.
“I felt good out there,” the left-hander said. “It was a tough game. Both sides are battling. I felt good about keeping us in the game.”
Toronto reliever Aaron Loup (1-2) began the ninth by hitting Chris Davis with a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, Steve Pearce popped out and Nolan Reimould received an intentional walk before Alexi Casilla reached on a throwing error by shortstop Munenori Kawasaki that loaded the bases.
Markakis then sliced an 0-2 pitch to the opposite field near the left-field line.
“He’s a tough lefty. Once I got to two strikes, I was in battle mode then, just looking for a pitch anywhere around the zone,” Markakis said. “If it goes through the hole, it does. If I’m out, I’m out. I just wanted to give myself a chance to put the ball in play and it worked out.”
Loup said, “I thought I made the pitch I needed to get him out and he just flipped it in there. It was a good piece of hitting.”
Gibbons refused to blame Kawasaki for his hurried, one-hop throw to first.
“To hang that on him, I’m not about to do that,” Gibbons said. “You win as a team and lose as a team. They got the big hit when they needed it.”
The Orioles went up 1-0 in the sixth. After Manny Machado’s liner to centre eluded the glove of a diving Colby Rasmus for a single and Adam Jones singled off the glove of third baseman Brett Lawrie, both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Davis hit a sacrifice fly to right that brought home Machado, who beat a strong throw by Jose Bautista with a nifty hand tag at the plate.
The Blue Jays answered in the seventh. Edwin Encarnacion ended an 0-for-16 skid with Toronto’s second hit, a one-out single. Adam Lind, who had reached base nine straight times (three hits, six walks) looked at a third strike and J.P. Arencibia singled before Rasmus bounced an RBI single through the right side to chase Tillman.
Darren O’Day walked Lawrie to load the bases before striking out Emilio Bonifacio.
It became apparent early that runs would come at a premium.
Happ gave up a leadoff single to Markakis in the first inning and didn’t allow another hit until Casilla reached on a slow roller to third base with two outs in the fifth. The only other runners during that span got on via a walk and a hit by pitch.
Tillman was equally sharp. After Lind singled with one out in the second, Arencibia walked before Rasmus grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Lind walked in the fifth and was wiped out when Rasmus again bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
In the Toronto sixth, Bonifacio walked and got to second with two outs before Melky Cabrera lifted a routine fly to left.
NOTES: The Orioles optioned struggling RHP Jake Arrieta to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled RHP Alex Burnett to fortify an overworked bullpen. … INF Maicer Izturis, who appeared in 16 of Toronto’s first 19 games, sat out this one with hamstring tightness. … RHP R.A. Dickey expects to start Tuesday night for the Blue Jays despite experiencing back and neck soreness in his last start. The Orioles will send Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 4.00 ERA) to the mound.