BALTIMORE — The Toronto Blue Jays might have a chance to play a part in the clinching of the AL East title, although it isn’t exactly the role they had in mind back in April.
If the Orioles beat Toronto on Tuesday night, Baltimore will clinch its first division title since 1997.
The Orioles put themselves in position for their big moment by roughing up Blue Jays rookie Marcus Stroman in a 5-2 win over the Blue Jays on Monday night.
Stroman (10-6) gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings. He won his previous three starts.
In the fifth inning, Stroman threw a pitch that soared by the head of Caleb Joseph, seemingly a response for Joseph blocking the plate on a slide by Jose Reyes in the top of the inning.
“It really pushed the hot button with all of us because It certainly wasn’t called for,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That was obvious. It was borderline professionally embarrassing.”
Storman insisted the pitch just got away from him.
“Fastball in that just kind of slipped out of my hand,” he said.
“It’s late in the game. I got two big strikeouts. I’m a little excited, and trying to get out of the inning. I know it’s possibly my last hitter. Just trying to execute a fastball in.”
Reyes had three hits and scored twice for the Blue Jays, whose wild-card chances dimmed with the loss.
“We’ve got a very slim outside shot to get to the playoffs, but we’re fighting every night to try to win games,” manager John Gibbons said. “When you’re going head to head with the top team in your division, and we desperately need to win games, that’s the frustrating part.”
Wei-Yin Chen (16-4) allowed two runs on nine hits over 5 2-3 innings to become the first Orioles lefty to win 16 games since Jimmy Key in 1997 — the year Baltimore last won the AL East. Although he yielded at least one hit in every inning but the second, Chen improved to 13-2 in 23 starts since May 9.
“I allowed quite a few hits out there, but I was trying to battle,” Chen said through an interpreter.
“I was trying to keep the ball down … without allowing too many runs. Fortunately I can do that with the help of my teammates.”
Zach Britton worked the ninth for his 35th save in 39 opportunities.
Ryan Flaherty homered and Adam Jones had three hits and an RBI as the Orioles secured their eighth win in nine games.
Baltimore (90-60) leads the AL East by 12 1/2 games, its biggest advantage since 1979. One more victory and the Orioles will be in celebration mode.
“It’s pretty special to come in here (Tuesday) and have a chance to do that,” Showalter said.
Toronto got off to a fast start, using three straight singles to score a run before Chen got an out.
In the bottom of the first, Jones got an RBI on a 50-foot dribbler down the third-base line and another run scored on a double-play grounder.
Nelson Cruz singled in a run in the third and Flaherty hit a two-run shot in the fourth to make it 5-1.
After Danny Valencia singled in a run for Toronto in the fifth, Toronto got two on with one out in the sixth. Chen was pulled after striking out pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus. Brad Brach then struck out Reyes.
Toronto went 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position.