The Orioles are two games behind the Yankees in the American League East and could slip another half-game back if New York holds onto its 3-2 lead over the Twins.
Update: The Twins beat the Yankees, 5-4. The Orioles remain 1 1/2 games back in the AL East.
Manager Buck Showalter praised left-hander Joe Saunders for giving the Orioles “a chance to win.”
“We just couldn’t do much with the bats, and the few opportunities that we had, we couldn’t cash in,” Showalter said following a 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays. “Joe does what he does. He gives us a chance to win.”
Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Laffey blanked the Orioles over 5 2/3 innings, and five relievers completed the shutout.
“He cuts the ball, sinks it. Got a lot of different speeds. Good command,” Showalter said.
“Him getting ahead with the lead kind of played into his hand, the way he was approaching us.”
Laffey’s had control issues, but the Orioles didn’t make him work hard in the early innings.
“It’s something you talk about going into the series, but it doesn’t mean because it appears here on paper and is a fact, that doesn’t mean he’s going to do it again,” Showalter said. “He had good command tonight and the other team’s a good team. They made some adjustments. And when we fell behind, we got pretty aggressive and that’s not always good with a guy who depends on your aggressiveness to get you out.”
The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with Casey Janssen walking two straight batters, but Ryan Flaherty swung at the first pitch and flied out.
“He’s the tying run there,” Showalter said, excusing Flaherty’s aggressive approach. “He just missed that ball, hitting it out of the ballpark. If that’s the pitch he thinks he can do it with... I thought Manny (Machado) 2-0, you could make a case for that, but if Ryan as the tying run gets a pitch he can, with his potential to hit the ball and tie it up...”
“I wanted to make sure I got all of the Players of the Year in the game tonight, so I got that accomplished,” Showalter said, smiling. “I should have had Rick (Peterson) down, too. Let him make a visit to the mound.”
Bundy threw a scoreless ninth inning, though he walked a batter and gave up a hit. Colby Rasmus grounded into a double play to end the threat.
“I’m glad Colby Rasmus swung at a 3-0 pitch there,” Showalter said. “I’ll dwell on some of the positives. He had a good look on his face, a good demeanor. His presentation is one of respect, but not overwhelmed. Let’s face it, he’s been here since 11 o’clock this morning. He should have gotten it all out of the way.
“It was fine. I wanted at the very least while he was here to let him pitch once on the road in a good venue and pitch once here. We’ll see what the future holds. We were down in the bullpen tonight in a non-winning situation, not ahead, and it was the right time for him.”
Asked if there were any nerves, Showalter quipped, “For him or me?”
“I put myself in his shoes and you can want something too much. I know our fans have been looking forward to seeing him. It had nothing with to do with the decision to bring him in. Well, maybe a little bit. But I’m proud of him more than he is.
“I don’t know if ‘nervous’ is the word. Just some anxiety for him knowing what it means to his family and all the people who have come in contact with him. And knowing that whether he pitches well or not doesn’t affect how we feel about him.”
And finally, Showalter was asked if the Orioles are still staying in the moment with about a week left in the season and so much at stake.
“They understand where they’re at, and most importantly, they understand how they got here. And they’ll continue with that,” he said.
“One thing I notice in the past, you’re always going to get everyone’s best shot and when we had been struggling and we’d go into certain venues where there’s a good emotion in the ballpark, it feeds the other team as well as us. Sometimes, it can work both ways. But with the games as they dwindle, our guys don’t really have a different approach and I think that’s a good thing. They know what’s at stake and I’m very proud of what they’ve done to get to the point where that question could be asked.”