TORONTO — With the dome roof at the Rogers Centre closed by first pitch Tuesday night, Orioles left-hander Zach Britton didn’t think he’d have to battle rain through the middle innings.
But the way the 25-year-old is pitching these days, there’s not much that can stop him.
With a chance to put his team in a two-way tie for first place in the AL East, Britton threw seven shutout innings to lead the Orioles to their second consecutive shutout win over the Blue Jays, 12-0, in front of an announced crowd of 13,556 in Toronto.
The win, which was their largest margin of victory this season, marked the first time the Orioles have been in first place in September since 1997, when the O’s went wire-to-wire and advanced to the American League Championship Series. The Orioles have now won nine of 11 and 21 of their last 29 games, pushing toward their first winning season — and first playoff berth — since that 1997 season.
Britton (5-1) won his fourth straight start since returning to the Orioles after being optioned to Class AAA Norfolk in early August. Over that span, Britton boasts a 0.94 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just five walks.
The Orioles (76-59), whose .574 road winning percentage is the best in the American League, also secured two series wins in Toronto for the first time since 2005. They had also struggled immensely at the Rogers Centre in recent years, losing 33 of their last 40 coming into this series.
But over the past two days, the Orioles have outscored the Blue Jays 16-0. Their 18 hits set a new season high and their 12 runs tied a season high.
Not much has gone right here for the home team, as evidenced when the dome roof opened in the third inning and took three innings to close when it began to rain again — forcing the grounds crew to add more dirt to the pitcher’s mound and home plate area.
The delays didn’t affect Britton, who held the Blue Jays to four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. Britton worked ahead of hitters, mixing his fastball with a biting slider.
And the Orioles gave Britton one of their best offensive outputs of the season.
Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva faced the minimum number of hitters through the first four innings, but first baseman Mark Reynolds’ three-run homer in the fifth inning broke a scoreless tie and opened the flood gates.
Reynolds, who was 3 for 4 with 4 RBI, continued to sizzle. In the opening five games of the Orioles’ road trip to New York and Toronto, he is 8 for 19 with five homers, 11 RBIs, 7 runs and 3 walks.
Eight of the nine Orioles starters had base hits, with Nick Markakis, Chris Davis and Manny Machado each recording three hits. Machado’s three hits marked a career high.
The Orioles improved to 60-0 when leading after seven innings and 32-2 when a starter goes at least seven innings.