Blue Jays 7, Orioles 2
Someone seeing the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday for the first time in a while would never have believed this was a team that had just reeled off 10 wins in 11 games. On a crisp afternoon at SkyDome, the Orioles looked as bad as they have in weeks, stringing together indifferent at-bats, uninspired pitching and inconsistent defense in a 7-2 loss to the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Former teammate Josh Towers, enjoying a resurgent year, shut the Orioles down for 62/3 innings, while Orioles starter Dave Borkowski stumbled badly in his seventh start since joining the team five weeks ago.
Still, the Orioles (56-59) will have a chance to notch their fourth series win in a row Sunday, when the teams play the series finale at 1:05 p.m.
Towers's win was his second in four starts against the Orioles since they let him walk away via free agency without so much as a phone call following the 2002 season. After two trips to the minors this season, Towers (8-4), a right-hander with modest physical gifts, has won five of his past six starts.
"Some people get by with stuff," he said. "I get by with control and knowing how to pitch."
Borkowski (3-3) has enjoyed the same sort of storybook season since being called up by the Orioles from Class AAA to make a spot start that has evolved into a semi-permanent rotation spot.
However, every inning was an adventure for him Saturday. Beginning with the second inning, the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter doubled in every frame until Borkowski was lifted one batter into the fifth. All four times, the leadoff batter scored.
"He just couldn't get the ball down all day," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He was fighting himself."
Were it not for a pair of excellent defensive plays by second baseman Brian Roberts -- both of them on hard-hit grounders up the middle, with one of them starting a spectacular 4-6-3 double play to end the second inning -- things could have been much worse for Borkowski, who nonetheless turned in his shortest start of the season.
In all, Borkowski needed a staggering 93 pitches to muddle through four-plus tedious innings, giving up a season-high eight hits.
"I pretty much [stunk] from the get-go," he said. "Every inning you're in the stretch [position] right away. You get no rhythm at all."
By winning three of his six previous starts -- highlighted by the seven scoreless innings he tossed against Boston on July 28 -- Borkowski had earned himself enough status that his survival in the rotation is no longer a start-by-start proposition. But he is clearly last in the pecking order, and his spot is guaranteed only as long as there are no better options available.
When Borkowski was yanked in the fifth, after allowing his fourth straight leadoff double, the Blue Jays' lead was only 3-1. However, left-hander John Parrish failed to keep it there. He not only allowed the inherited runner to score, but he also gave Toronto a fifth run on a wild pitch, then served up a towering 427-foot homer to slugger Carlos Delgado in the seventh inning, making it 6-2.
The Orioles had multiple opportunities to batter Towers, but other than Larry Bigbie's two-out RBI single in the second inning and Roberts's RBI double in the seventh, they failed to deliver the types of big hits that they had been piling up of late.
Even all-star shortstop Miguel Tejada, whose play lately has been reminiscent of his 2002 AL MVP season, failed twice with runners in scoring position and also made an error on a backhand play in the hole, a play he has made with unparalleled grace all season.
Orioles Notes: Mazzilli's original lineup had Jay Gibbons making his first start in right field since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday. But after consulting with Gibbons, Mazzilli changed the lineup so that Gibbons was back at designated hitter, with David Newhan in right field.
"This is where he hurt himself the first time," Mazzilli said. "[Artificial] turf can be a terrible thing for you." . . .
The team is the target of a $2 million lawsuit filed by the touring company for rock band Van Halen, alleging the Orioles reneged on an agreement for the band to play a concert at Oriole Park at Camden Yards next month. A team spokesman on Saturday declined to comment on the lawsuit. . . .
The Orioles' July 27 rainout against Boston in Baltimore has been rescheduled for 1:05 p.m. on October 2, as part of a day-night doubleheader. The scheduled 4:35 p.m. game that day has been moved to 7:05 p.m.