TORONTO - On a day that the Orioles were short-handed in the bullpen, they needed a good outing from their starter. They got one big time, but their offense produced only one run to back that up and another walk-off homer beat them in Toronto.
The stakes were much less on Saturday than they were in October, but another big crowd roared its approval when Kendrys Morales hit the first pitch of the last of the ninth for the game-winning home run. Right-hander Tyler Wilson didn’t bury a curveball and Morales hit his fourth career walk-off homer as the Blue Jays beat the Orioles 2-1 in front of 40,743 at Rogers Centre.
Toronto (2-9) ended a six-game losing streak. For the Orioles (7-3), it was their first loss in five games against the Blue Jays and their first in five one-run decisions.
Right-hander Alec Asher, making his O’s debut, was outstanding. He allowed just one run and three hits over 6 1/3 innings in an impressive performance. But with a bullpen that could use a reinforcement and with his rotation spot not needed again for a week, Asher’s stay with the club may be short-lived.
Did Asher earn another start?
“I don’t know what else you’ve got to do, but also with three guys down in the bullpen, we’ve got to make sure we’re covered tomorrow,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter was not going to use Zach Britton and Darren O’Day after they had pitched two straight days. So had Brad Brach, but Showalter said he would have used Brach in a save situation that never came.
Asher pitched out of a two-on jam in the first and began to roll after that. He walked one and fanned a career-high five. At one point he retired 15 of 16 batters. The run he gave up scored after he left the game. It was a strong debut, but his roster spot may have to go to someone else.
“We don’t need a fifth starter until next Saturday, so barring a DL, we wouldn’t be able to bring him back for then,” Showalter said. “So there’s a lot of wheels turning there to make sure we can put our best foot forward. We’re going to check on our health with a few guys tomorrow, but we’ll be covered one way or another.
“You don’t want to do that (option out Asher), but we are playing Toronto without Alec tomorrow and we’re going to play three games against Cincinnati, three games without Alec, and potentially the first game against Boston. He certainly did his part.”
Asher and Jays starter Marco Estrada matched zeros until Darwin Barney’s pinch-hit single in the seventh off Donnie Hart made it 1-0. Facing a loss by that score, the Orioles tied the game in the ninth and Craig Gentry factored large in that comeback.
Catcher Welington Castillo reached on an infield single and Gentry pinch-ran and stole second. He went to third on Hyun Soo Kim’s flyout and scored on Jonathan Schoop’s sac fly to center. The O’s manufactured a run for the tie. Gentry’s speed proved to make a late-game impact for his first as an Oriole.
“I was talking to him a day or two ago because I know he hasn’t had the opportunity to show what he can bring and today was a good example of the way he can impact a game, especially if you’ve got the guts to run there,” Showalter said.
But in the home half of the inning, Wilson’s curveball to Morales - the first pitch of the last of the ninth - was not located where he needed it. One swing ended a pitcher’s duel.
“I wanted to challenge (him) and wanted to get ahead,” Wilson said. “And I didn’t execute a pitch up in the zone and he kind of jumped me from the first pitch. I wanted to get ahead with a breaking ball and try to pitch from there. The guy put a good swing on it and ended the game there.”
Wilson said it was doubly frustrating to give it up right after the Orioles worked hard to scratch out the tying run.
“Absolutely. That is my biggest disappointment,” he said. “Sometimes guys are going to get you on a first-pitch homer and you’ll lose. The biggest disappointment is that the guys played hard and it was a great game from start to finish...I wanted to be the guy to help close it out at the end right, rather than the other way. Disappointed I couldn’t be there for those guys.”
With the Orioles needing a temporary rotation replacement for Chris Tillman, Asher stepped foward today, using his two-seam and cut fastballs to pound the zone. He threw 93 pitches, 59 for strikes.
“I felt good,” Asher said. “It is tough to get the loss but I feel like we battled as a team. I felt good out there and just hoping to continue that. Everything was working pretty well for me. But just concentrated on staying down and getting weak contact and working off of that.”
“You know, I try to get weak contact as best I can,” Asher said. “That being said, the defense is unbelievable. Manny made a great play. There was a good double play. It is just that much more comforting knowing that you have the defense behind you.”
Now he waits to find out if he stays on the roster and when and where his next start might be. It could be in the International League or again in the American League.
“Like I said, you can’t think about it. It’s out of your control,” he said. “The only thing you control is what you do on the field. So, I just went out there and I competed and executed my plan and see where it takes me from there.”
A reporter suggested that Asher’s first game with the club could not have gone much better - outside of the Orioles getting a win.
“Yeah, other than like a perfect game or no-hitter. I’m very happy with the performance and just trying to build on it from here,” he said.
All five games between the Orioles and Toronto have been decided by two runs or fewer this season and the Jays got their first win in the season series today. Sunday afternoon, they conclude this four-game series when right-hander Dylan Bundy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) faces Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ (0-2, 5.40 ERA).