BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles have matched their win total of last year, and they’ve still got 36 games left to play. It’s an impressive accomplishment and one that barely caused a ripple in the clubhouse.
J.J. Hardy homered and scored three runs, rookie Steve Johnson allowed four hits over six innings and the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Saturday night for their 14th win in 20 games.
Hardy, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters each had two RBIs for the Orioles (69-57), who are in the thick of the AL wild-card chase and only four games out of first place in the AL East after going 69-93 in 2011.
Asked if he ever took a moment to consider what it means to match last year’s win total on Aug. 25, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter quickly said, “No.”
“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody in that locker room who knows that unless you tell them,” Showalter said. “I think if someone had told us that was going to be the benchmark this year, they’d ask, ‘Who says that?’ Our guys, from Day 1 in spring training, have a loftier goal than having a better record than last year.”
The Orioles are also beyond simply trying to end their run of 14 straight losing seasons. Now, it’s about reaching the postseason. Period.
“We’re in a good position,” first baseman Mark Reynolds said. “We’re still in the wild-card hunt. It’s going to be tight coming down the stretch. If we stay focused on the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”
Jones, whose two-run single in the fifth inning put the Orioles ahead for good, said, “The 69 wins is a product of playing good baseball and competitive baseball on a daily basis. We’ve got 36 games to go. Let’s see our record after 36 games.”
Johnson (2-0) gave up two runs, struck out seven and walked two in his second big-league start. The right-hander has 23 strikeouts over 17 innings in five appearances.
“I can’t really explain it,” he said of his strikeout total.
Toronto lost its seventh straight, and the bad news didn’t stop there. Right fielder Jose Bautista left in the third inning with discomfort in his left wrist, just one night after being activated from the disabled list. Bautista was sidelined for 5 1/2 weeks with inflammation in that same wrist.
He was put back on the DL following the game. The slugger will see a hand specialist on Sunday, manager John Farrell said.
“In the meantime, we felt we had to put him on the disabled list,” Farrell said.
Toronto also put first baseman David Cooper (back strain) on the DL, activated Adam Lind (back) from the disabled list and recalled infielder Adeiny Hechavarria from Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Blue Jays fell 14 games under .500 (56-70) for the first time since Sept. 25, 2009 (70-84). By dropping the first two games of the three-game set, Toronto has lost six straight series.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 34th home run in the Blue Jays’ season-high eighth straight defeat on the road.
Pitching in the majors for the first time since June 11 following a stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain, Toronto starter Brandon Morrow (7-5) allowed four runs, two earned, and six hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Toronto bolted to a 2-0 lead in the first. After Mike McCoy was thrown out trying to steal, Bautista drew a two-out walk and Encarnacion hit a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats — his third homer in five games and fifth over a 12-game span.
Morrow struck out three of the first five batters he faced before the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the second for rookie Manny Machado, who struck out.
Baltimore pulled even with two unearned runs in the third. Nick Markakis scored from second when shortstop Yunel Escobar let a potential double-play grounder skip past him, and Wieters followed with a sacrifice fly.
After Jones singled in two runs in the fifth, Hardy hit a two-run drive off Chad Jenkins in the sixth and Wieters added an RBI single for a 7-2 lead.
Machado drove in a seventh-inning run with a single. He had two hits, matching his total over the previous six games.
NOTES: Before the game, RHP Mike Mussina and 2B Rich Dauer were inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Slumping Colby Rasmus was supposed to have a day off but entered in the third inning for Bautista. Rasmus went 0 for 3 and has three hits in his last 42 at-bats. Wieters threw out three would-be base stealers. It’s the 14th time an Orioles catcher has performed the feat, the first since Mickey Tettleton in 1988. Escobar doubled in the seventh to end a 7-for-47 skid. It was his second extra-base hit in 22 games. Baltimore has been outscored 76-48 in the first inning this season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)