TORONTO (AP) — Another day, another late loss for the Baltimore Orioles.
Converted pitcher Adam Loewen hit his first major league home run against his original team to help the Toronto Blue Jays beat Baltimore 6-5 on Sunday.
Jose Bautista drove in the tiebreaking run with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly, sending Baltimore to its 29th loss in its last 34 games in Toronto dating to June 2008.
The Orioles lost 5-4 on Saturday when Kevin Gregg blew a save opportunity in the ninth. Each of Baltimore’s last four losses have been by one or two runs.
“I was talking to (shortstop J.J. Hardy) during one of our pitching changes,” infielder Chris Davis said. “I said, ‘When this team really learns to put games away, we’re going to win a lot more games.’ It seems like the last week that there’s been a lot of one-run ballgames where the momentum has switched late in the game and not in our favor. I think it’s part of learning, part of growing as a team.”
Baltimore stranded 11 on Sunday and went 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
“We squandered some offensive opportunities,” manager Buck Showalter acknowledged.
Joel Carreno (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for his first career win and Frank Francisco finished for his 14th save in 18 opportunities.
David Cooper also went deep as the Blue Jays overcame a 5-3 deficit with a three-run seventh against right-hander Tommy Hunter (3-4).
Cooper led off the inning with a drive to right, his second. J.P. Arencibia, whose ninth-inning single gave Toronto a win Saturday, hit a deep drive to center that Matt Angle caught at the wall. Loewen followed with a shot to almost the same spot, but that one cleared the fence for a tying homer.
“I know so many of the guys over there, it was special to do it against them,” said Loewen, who was both a pitcher and position player in high school and junior college.
Mike McCoy doubled and Eric Thames singled to chase Hunter before Bautista hit the tiebreaking sacrifice fly off Willie Eyre.
Baltimore’s first-round draft pick in 2003, Loewen pitched in 35 games for the Orioles between 2006 and 2008 before giving up pitching because of recurring stress fractures in his elbow. He signed a minor league contract with Toronto that winter and began his comeback as a position player, getting called up to the majors last Wednesday after finishing the year at Triple-A Las Vegas with a .306 average, 17 homers and 86 RBIs.
Cooper, who has come up through Toronto’s minor league ranks alongside Loewen, said his teammate’s switch from power arm to power hitter is “unreal.”
“I remember when he first made the transition and it’s night and day,” Cooper said. “It’s amazing how quickly he’s picked up hitting.”
Hunter, who gave up Loewen’s shot, expects to be reminded of it for some time to come.
“We have the same agent so I’m probably going to hear about this for the rest of the time that we’re together,” Hunter said. “He’s gone through a lot of adversity in the game of baseball. To come back and be productive in the big leagues, not only as a pitcher but coming back at a different position is just ridiculous. Give him a lot of credit.”
Vladimir Guerrero’s sacrifice fly gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead in the first but Toronto answered with two unearned runs in the bottom half. After McCoy reached on an error and Eric Thames on a single, Bautista hit an RBI single and Brett Lawrie’s groundout drove in another run.
The Orioles used a walk and three straight singles to tie it in the second, with Angle’s base hit scoring Davis.
Toronto reclaimed the lead in the third. McCoy singled, snapping an 0-for-15 slump, took second on a groundout and moved to third on a fly ball before scoring on Adam Lind’s single.
The Orioles answered in the fourth, chasing Toronto starter Dustin McGowan after he opened the inning with back-to-back walks.
Carlos Villanueva came on and struck out Roberto Andino, then got Angle on a groundout, with the runners advancing to second and third. Hardy was walked intentionally to bring up Nick Markakis, who lined a two-run single to right.
Baltimore made it 5-3 with a run in the sixth against Shawn Camp. Angle drew a leadoff walk, went to third on Markakis’ ground-rule double and scored on a grounder by Matt Wieters.
Making his first start since July 8, 2008, also against Baltimore, McGowan struggled with his control, allowing three runs and four hits in three-plus innings. He walked five and struck out none.
Villanueva pitched two innings of relief. Camp, Carreno and Casey Janssen each worked one inning before Francisco closed it out.
Hunter, who has not won in three starts, allowed six runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked none and struck out five.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)