A quality start couldn’t prevent the Orioles from dropping four games out of first place in the American League East.
Marco Estrada held the Orioles to one run, on J.J. Hardy’s homer leading off the third, and the Blue Jays took the first game of this crucial series, 5-1, before 15,532 at Camden Yards.
The crowd was a huge disappointment. The first day of school? A third-place team?
The Orioles (71-60) have lost four of their last five games and nine of 14.
Josh Donaldson homered with one out in the fourth inning to break Miley’s streak of 10 straight batters retired. A walk and two singles followed, the last by Troy Tulowitzki to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
Jose Bautista homered to lead off the top of the sixth. Miley stranded two runners after a walk and single, then retired the Jays in order in the seventh on only five pitches.
Miley allowed three runs and five hits and walked two batters in the fourth and sixth combined. Everything else was clean. He also struck out nine.
Estrada allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, with one walk and four strikeouts. Joe Biagini replaced him after Hardy’s leadoff single in the eighth and retired the next three batters.
Jonathan Schoop was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the leadoff hitter.
Plate umpire Alan Porter had a huge strike zone that drew stares and choice words from both sides. Six of Miley’s nine strikeouts were called.
Here’s a sampling from manager Buck Showalter:
On Miley: “Wade was good, Wade was good. Mixed in a lot of different looks and gave us a good chance. A good seventh inning to get one more inning out of him. Wanted to get him through (Justin) Smoak there and he let us finish the inning. He was good. He gave us a real good chance to win the game. We just didn’t do much against Estrada.”
On why Miley was better tonight: “Took advantage of some liberalness with the strike zone and made them honor the ball in. Changeup was there. Matt (Wieters) could put down any finger and he’d be able to make them think about it, so he had really three pitches they had to think about that he could throw for a strike. He had good tempo. When he gets things going it really makes them operate at his speed.”
On why Estrada was good: “He’s one of those guys, he’s been doing it for two years, really. He’s one of those guys you know what he’s going to do and he’s still able to do it. He mixed in a little cutter, but most of it is command of the fastball and obviously one of the better changeups in the league and spins the ball, couple if you want to call them curveball/slurves in there just to throw you a different look for a strike. (Russell) Martin does a real good job of kind of rocking the boat back and forth with guys and never really gets into any pattern. He’s got that changeup that stops in front of the plate.”
On why a guy like Estrada is so tough on the Orioles: “He does it to everybody. That’s why he’s on the All-Star team. It wasn’t just us. This guy is a good pitcher period. Everybody has some trouble with him. We did a pretty good job against him last time out and he hadn’t been pitching up to the high standard he set a little bit, but he got back in step tonight. He had a little crisper fastball, which separated his changeup. Just makes hitters honor a lot of different pitches. Makes his fastball really play up.
“I actually thought a little later on in the game he started elevating the fastball a little bit and got some fly balls out of that. There’s a fine line between the real hittable pitch and then elevating just half a ball, which makes it a fly ball instead of a squared up ball. We hit like six balls on the button that were at them, so we didn’t have much luck with the ball we hit hard, either.”
On whether both teams benefited from Porter’s strike zone: “It was ... yes. Was definitely hunting strikes. There were a lot of called strike threes today, weren’t there? Just because it’s the same for both doesn’t mean it’s right.”