Blue Jays 14, Orioles 4

Reprinted from yesterday's editions

Dave Borkowski's spot in the Baltimore rotation had always seemed tenuous, a bad stretch threatening to end the magic season of the unlikeliest of Orioles starting pitchers.

He had carried a considerable amount of luck and pluck in his first several starts, convincing the Orioles, at least for a bit, they had found a hidden talent, a quality arm attached to a player who previously had a lackluster career as a journeyman pitcher.

But Borkowski's ascent has stalled. He allowed five runs in just 42/3 innings in Friday's 14-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards, which sent the Orioles to their fourth consecutive defeat.

"I don't know what the deal was," Borkowski said. "I wasn't very good again."

In just four games the Orioles have tempered the excitement that had come with an 11-2 stretch, which put them only two games under .500. They were on the border of playoff contention, a reasonable seven games behind the wild-card leaders. Now, postseason thoughts have disappeared.

They are bruised -- two starters were placed on the disabled list this week -- and now beaten.

Before the game, Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said the three losses to Oakland to start the homestand were not necessarily an indictment on his club, but instead a product of facing a quality team with good pitching. But Toronto entered the game as the fourth worst team in the majors.

After a 7-0 stand in their previous stay at home, the Orioles have yet to win a game on their current stay and have gone down meekly in losses. No starting pitcher in the four games has pitched past the sixth inning and the Orioles have been outscored 33-9.

The four Baltimore runs came on home runs by David Newhan, Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez, who returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with a sore lower back. Lopez said he hurt the back while trying to block a pitch in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 11-0 loss to the A's. Lopez said he still feels slight pain, though he hardly seemed bothered. Lopez also doubled.

Toronto right-hander Josh Towers, who allowed just one run in 51/3 innings, has defeated his former team in consecutive starts, allowing just three runs in 12 innings.

Chris Woodward hit his first career grand slam and Orlando Hudson had three hits for the Blue Jays. Eric Hinske also had a homer and three RBI as Toronto improved to 3-8 under interim manager John Gibbons -- and all three wins have come with Towers on the mound.

Meantime, Borkowski, 27, seems to have regressed since his strong start. He had spent eight seasons in the Detroit system and had achieved very little. Signed by the Orioles to a minor league deal last season, the right-hander was called up in July to make just one start, but he pitched well enough in his debut, allowing two runs in 81/3 innings against Tampa Bay, so the Orioles decided to keep him in the rotation. He justified the move by posting a 3.07 ERA in four starts in July.

His past two starts perhaps are a sign his stay in the majors may not be permanent. In consecutive losses against the Blue Jays, Borkowski allowed nine runs in 82/3 innings.

Mazzilli said Borkowski remains in the rotation for now.

"I can't control what they do," Borkowski said. "I can only control how I pitch. And I haven't pitched very well the last two times out."

Perhaps most damning for Borkowski, he has yet to pitch more than six innings in his past four starts, a cause for concern on a team with struggling middle relief. On Friday, reliever Buddy Groom put the game out of reach, allowing four runs in the seventh. Rookie Eddy Rodriguez allowed five more runs in the ninth.

Orioles Notes: Broadcaster Jim Palmer apologized to former Baltimore outfielder Brady Anderson prior to the team's Hall of Fame luncheon for comments the former pitcher made on a radio show in March that questioned whether Anderson's 50 home run season in 1996 came with the aid of steroids.

"I used him as an example and I probably shouldn't have," Palmer said.

Blue Jays starter Josh Towers has something that belongs to Orioles' Melvin Mora.