TORONTO (AP) — Tommy Hunter is struggling, and Toronto was the last place he wanted to pitch. As usual, things didn’t work out too well for him north of the border.
Hunter gave up six runs in three-plus innings, including two-run homers to Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson, and the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 Monday night to end a five-game losing streak.
Winless in six starts since beating the Blue Jays in Baltimore on April 24, Hunter fell to 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA in five career starts at Rogers Centre.
“This place is sickening for me,” he said.
The Orioles have lost three straight and six of eight. They remained tied with Tampa Bay atop the AL East.
Hunter blamed poor fastball command for his shortest outing of the season — and his recent results, adding that he’s starting to become worried about keeping his spot in the rotation.
“As soon as I can figure out how to throw a fastball down in the zone, things are going to change,” Hunter said. “It’s a
battle right now. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to find it or somebody else is going to do it.”
Manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles would “step back” and assess the rotation going forward but did not commit to making a change, even after Hunter put Baltimore in an early hole.
“We got on our heels,” Showalter said. “It knocked a lot of wind out of our sails starting off like that.”
Hunter allowed five earned runs and nine hits. He walked none and struck out none.
Toronto rookie Drew Hutchison got the win, striking out a career-high nine in seven shutout innings.
“Hutchison was good, real good,” Showalter said. “You can see why they think so highly of him. This guy is 21 years old with great stuff.”
Hutchison (4-2) allowed three hits, all singles, in the longest of his eight big league starts. He walked three.
“I found my slot, found my release point, which is something I was looking for,” Hutchison said. “I had inconsistently found it and I was able to find it consistently.”
Encarnacion hit his 16th homer, a two-run drive to left in the third, and Johnson added a two-run shot to center in the fourth, his ninth.
Last year, Encarnacion did not hit his first home run of the season until May 29. He finished with 17.
Luis Perez pitched a scoreless eighth but Francisco Cordero gave up two runs in the ninth. Casey Janssen got two outs for his fourth save as the Blue Jays (25-24) avoided falling below .500 for the first time this season.
Toronto jumped on Hunter (2-3) in the first. Back in the lineup after missing two games with a sore left hamstring, Johnson led off with a double and scored on Colby Rasmus’ single to right. Johnson added another run in the second, driving in David Cooper with a groundout.
Encarnacion made it 4-0 with a line-drive homer in the third and Johnson chased Hunter with his shot in the fourth.
Baltimore got Mark Reynolds back from injury, activating him from the 15-day disabled list, but his return did little to spark an offense that has scored just seven runs over the past three games.
Poor baserunning and a questionable call cost the Orioles in the third, when Chris Davis led off with a single and Reynolds followed with a walk. Davis was caught stealing when he got caught in a rundown, with third base umpire Kerwin Danley ruling that Davis had left the baseline to avoid a tag from third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Third base coach DeMarlo Hale and Showalter both argued the call.
“DeMarlo didn’t think (Davis) went far enough out of the line,” Showalter said. “(The tag) obviously missed him.”
Hutchison loaded the bases by issuing walks to Robert Andino and, one out later, J.J. Hardy, but Nick Markakis ended the inning by grounding back to the mound.
“He made his call,” Davis said of Danley. “It hurt us right there. That’s a big inning that could have been.”
Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, the middle of Baltimore’s order, went a combined 2 for 12. Jones hit a leadoff single in the ninth, extending his career-high hitting streak to 19 games. It’s the longest streak in the American League this season.
Toronto’s Omar Vizquel singled to begin the fourth, the 2,848th hit of his career, tying him with Brooks Robinson for 43rd place.
NOTES: Toronto slugger Jose Bautista broke his bat over his leg in frustration after fouling out to end the sixth. … Blue Jays SS Yunel Escobar, who left Sunday’s game at Texas with a sore left groin, was held out of the starting lineup. … To make room on the roster for Reynolds, Baltimore put RHP Stu Pomeranz (left oblique) on the 15-day DL. … Showalter said OF Endy Chavez (left oblique) should be activated from the disabled list Tuesday. … The Blue Jays recalled LHP Aaron Laffey from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned RHP Chad Beck to Triple-A. … Toronto RHP Sergio Santos (shoulder)
threw from 120 feet on flat ground. Santos could resume throwing off a mound Wednesday or Thursday, manager John Farrell said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)