With a bullpen assist, Joe Saunders' second Orioles start sure went a lot better than his first. He picked up his first win with his new team today as the Orioles beat Toronto 4-0 in Game 1 of a three-game series.
Coupled with New York's 4-3 loss on the road vs. Tampa Bay, the Orioles moved to within one game of first place in the AL East.
Saunders took a perfect game into the last of the sixth. But with two outs, an Adeiny Hechavarria single ended the no-hit bid and gave Toronto its first runner. But Saunders got out of a two-on, two-out jam that frame.
An inning later, he left with one out and the bases loaded. But Luis Ayala pitched out of that jam. He struck out Moises Sierra after falling behind 3-0 in the count and then got Jeff Mathis to fly out to preserve the shutout and Saunders' scoreless pitching line.
Saunders allowed just three hits over 6 1/3 innings with two walks and two strikeouts as he threw 94 pitches. In his first start, last Wednesday against Chicago, he allowed seven runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Before this outing, Saunders had given up 29 hits and 21 runs (20 earned) in 15 innings over his last three starts, two with Arizona and one with Baltimore.
Pedro Strop pitched the eighth and Jim Johnson the ninth as the Orioles combined on a four-pitcher, three-hitter. It's their eighth shutout.
The Orioles scored their first run on a squeeze bunt by Nate McLouth that scored Manny Machado. The O's added two runs in the fifth on RBI doubles by Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy off J.A. Happ. Hardy drove in another run with a single in the eighth for a two-RBI day.
With the win, the Orioles move to a season-high 16 games over .500 at 75-59. They have won eight of their last 10, 14 of 20 and are 29-15 over the last 44 games. They are now 29-21 vs. the AL East.
The Orioles have 75 wins for the first time since 2004 when they won 78 games.
The Orioles ended a four-game losing streak at Rogers Centre and are 8-4 against the Jays this year, going 5-0 at home and 3-4 in Toronto.