DJ Stewart hits first major league homer and O’s take series finale (postgame quotes)

They are not a rock band, but tonight Jimmy and the bullpen got it done for the Orioles. Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis went the first four innings and the bullpen took it from there. The O’s hung on late for a 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (44-108) end the homestand going 3-6. In each series - against Oakland, the Chicago White Sox and Toronto - they lost the first two games, but avoided the sweep by taking the series finale.

DJ Stewart hit his first career homer, a solo shot in the third. And center fielder Cedric Mullins delivered his first career RBI batting right-handed for the Orioles as they won for the third time in 13 games and end the year going 5-14 against Toronto.

Yacabonis made his fifth start for the Orioles and his first since Aug. 25 against the Yankees. And he was rolling early on, with four strikeouts in the first two scoreless innings on 32 pitches. Yacabonis retired the side in order in the third and that made it nine in a row to start his night on 45 pitches.

He ran into big-time trouble in the fourth, but kept Toronto off the scoreboard. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Cleanup hitter Kendrys Morales lifted a fly ball to medium right and Adam Jones made the catch and fired home. His throw was to the first base side of the plate, but Austin Wynns made the catch and tag on Billy McKinney to complete a 9-2 double play. Yacabonis then hit Kevin Pillar and the bases were loaded again. This time, he got another fly ball as Aledmys Díaz hit the flyout to left to end a 19-pitch scoreless fourth.

Mike Wright Jr. replaced Yacabonis to start the fifth. So Yacabonis threw four scoreless innings on two hits with one walk, four strikeouts, one wild pitch and one hit batter. He got 14 swings and misses among his 64 pitches. He got 10 among his 45 two-seam fastballs that averaged 93.6 mph. Because he threw just four innings, he could not qualify for a win, but he got a game of solid pitching for the Orioles off to a great start and lowered his ERA from 7.22 to 6.34.

Wright pitched two scoreless and got the win, getting out of a jam in the top of the sixth. With one out, he gave up a single and walk. But then he fanned No. 4 hitter Morales with a 92 mph slider and struck out No. 5 hitter Pillar with a slider at 91 mph. He threw two shutout frames on 35 pitches.

Stewart-Celebrates-HR-White-Sidebar.jpgStewart provided what little offense either team would get tonight with that homer that hit the right field foul pole leading off the Baltimore third inning. Last night, Stewart got his first career hit and steal, and tonight he hit homer No. 1. He hit Estrada’s 1-2 changeup 364 feet to break the scoreless tie in the third.

The Orioles doubled that lead versus the Jays bullpen in the seventh. Against right-hander Danny Barnes, Stewart doubled to right-center with one out. So he produced his first homer and double in the same game. With two outs, lefty Tim Mayza came on. O’s leadoff batter Mullins singled to left for the 2-0 lead and his first career RBI off a lefty. Mullins began the night batting .172 (5-for-29) with 13 strikeouts off southpaws.

Miguel Castro pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the Orioles before he gave up a solo homer in the eighth to Billy McKinney. Castro got one more out and Tanner Scott then got the final out of the eighth. Mychal Givens pitched a quick 1-2-3 ninth to record a save as the Baltimore bullpen combined for five innings of two-hit ball.

The Orioles are off tomorrow and begin the season’s final road trip Friday night. They’ll play three games each at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park to wrap up the 2018 road schedule.

Postgame quotes:

Stewart on an important first major league homer: “It means a lot. I’m up here to contribute to the team and help any way I can. For me to come up in a situation right there, where we don’t have any runs on the board and our pitcher is pitching pretty well, to give him a little more confidence going out there, was a big momentum thing for us. Yac went out there and did a very good job the next inning.”

Stewart on whether last night helped him tonight: “It’s very important. Like I said yesterday, I wasn’t really pressing, but it’s always a relief when you can get that first one out of the way. Then to come out here and have that confidence going into the game that you are still feeling really well. And for one to go over the wall that is going to give you more confidence. Our pitchers did a great job as well. Our entire bullpen - Miguel, Mike and Givvy to close it out. Everybody contributed tonight.”

Stewart on his different trip around the bases tonight: “It was a little close there. (Coach Wayne) Kirby was running down the line trying to will it fair. I was doing the same. But once I saw it hit off the foul pole, it sunk in. You did it. Lot less stressful than the Little League home run.”

Yacabonis on his outing: “I felt pretty comfortable those first three innings. Then a guy got on base and I rushed my mechanics a little bit that fourth inning. Left some things arm side. Some of that I have to iron out and fine tune.”

Yacabonis on Jones nailing runner at the plate: “Awesome. Awesome. Pumped me up. I thought Winny’s pick was just as good as the throw. To get the pick and the tag on him with that throw was great.”

Yacabonis not sure whether it’s relief or starting for him in 2019: “Going forward, I think it is something I’m going to have to discuss with the staff here and what kind of role they want to put me in for next year. What kind of work I’m going to have to put in this offseason to prepare. Whether I’m going to be a long guy, mid relief or a starter next year. It is something I will discuss and draw up a plan with the guys that helped me improve this year.”

Wynns on the young pitchers getting it done tonight: “That was definitely a team win. On our pitching side, our defensive side and that’s what we need to do, going ahead. Bottom line, that is what we need to do. Jimmy did a great job right from the get go. He got into a bind, but we got out of it which was huge and everyone contributed. Everyone.”

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