TORONTO – The return of third baseman Brett Lawrie lasted all of three innings before he left the game with lower back tightness. Left-hander Mark Buehrle, meanwhile, lasted only four innings in his start.
That just about summed up the way things went on Tuesday for the Toronto Blue Jays as they extended their losing streak to four games with a 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Blue Jays dropped to five games off the pace in the American League East as the first-place Orioles won their third in a row.
The return of Lawrie, who suffered a broken finger in June, was supposed to give the Blue Jays a boost in the opener of the three-game set between the top two teams in the division.
But he felt something in his back during batting practice and again during the game. He singled in his only at-bat, in the second inning, and was replaced at third base by Danny Valencia after the third.
“We don’t think it’s anything serious,” manager John Gibbons said. “He’s day-to-day.”
Lawrie was scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday.
“It was just kind of grabbing me a little bit as I was warming up and kind of just going about my day,” he said. “This is my first game back, I really don’t want to make it permanent that I don’t get back. So I really just wanted to get out of there and see what it was.”
Lawrie said he had had no back problems during his rehabilitation process from the broken finger until Tuesday.
Caleb Joseph, Jonathan Schoop and Chris Davis hit solo home runs for the Orioles who outhit the Blue Jays 14-12 and stranded 11 runners to the Blue Jays’ 10.
“With us losing today doesn’t mean our season is over,” Buehrle said. “If somebody thought we were going to come in and sweep these guys, you’re on some good drugs, that’s not going to happen. They’re in first place for a reason.”
Orioles right-hander Bud Norris (9-7) allowed seven hits and two runs, both on a homer by Colby Rasmus, in 5 1/3 innings. Norris is 3-0 in five career starts against Toronto.
Buehrle (11-8) allowed 10 hits, including two home runs, three walks and four runs in four innings. He is 1-7 in his past 11 starts.
“It’s frustrating giving up 10 hits in four innings,” Buehrle said. “I feel like I’m making some quality pitches at certain times and I’m making mistakes and they’re making me pay for them.”
Added Gibbons: “Basically they just hit him around pretty good. He’s a location guy. He’s a control artist. He’s got some guys in that lineup over there who have hit him in his career so it’s not an easy lineup for him to face. A lot of power guys. He’s got to be on. When he’s off he’s going to be hit.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said his team was lucky to have caught Buehrle “on a down night.”
“We’re fortunate,” Showalter said. “We’ve had a couple of good offensive nights. I hope it continues.”
The Orioles (64-48) stranded five runners over the first two innings before cashing in with a run in the third on a one-out walk to Delmon Young and a two-out double by J.J. Hardy.
The Orioles took a 4-0 lead with a three-run fourth that opened with back-to-back homers by Joseph and Schoop.
Nick Markakis and Manny Machado followed with singles before Adam Jones popped out. Young’s grounder to third took a bad hop for an RBI single. Nelson Cruz grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Blue Jays (60-54) cut the lead in half in their fourth on a leadoff single by Dioner Navarro and, with two out, the 15th homer of the season by Rasmus.
Davis hit his 18th homer of the season against right-hander Aaron Sanchez with one out in the fifth to give the Orioles a 5-2 lead. Sanchez allowed another run in the sixth on two walks and a single by Cruz.
Left-hander Brian Matusz replaced Norris in the sixth after Valencia’s one-out single.
Matusz was replaced by right-hander Tommy Hunter after Ryan Goins and Jose Reyes started the seventh inning with singles. Melky Cabrera singled to load the bases. Jose Bautista hit a sacrifice fly to right to cut the lead to 6-3, but Navarro ended the threat when he grounded into a double play.
The Orioles increased their lead to 9-3 in the eighth after Dustin McGowan allowed walks to Machado and Young and a single to Jones to load the bases. Cruz hit a sacrifice fly and Hardy singled in a run.
Left-hander Aaron Loup took over and allowed a sacrifice fly by Davis on a foul ball that was caught by Valencia who had a long run down the line.
“A big statement game for us here the first game of the series,” Norris said. “These guys are right behind us and on our tail.”