BALTIMORE (AP) — A winning season was never an objective for the Baltimore Orioles. Reaching the playoffs was all that mattered.
So, after the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-5 on Wednesday night to clinch a winning record for the second straight year, the players saw absolutely no reason to celebrate the moment.
“We didn’t make it to the playoffs. That was our goal,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “I don’t know how much we look at it as, `All right, we got a winning season. Hurrah, hooray.”‘
The Orioles were eliminated from the wild-card hunt one night earlier, so manager Buck Showalter rested Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters and moved Chris Davis from first base to designated hitter.
Jonathan Schoop, a 21-year-old prospect making his major league debut, homered, singled, walked and scored three runs.
Now that, Hardy contended, was exciting.
“I think that’s more important right now, seeing Schoopy go out there and do what he did,” Hardy said. “It’s pretty special, fun to be a part of.”
Perhaps that was the biggest benefit from playing a game that did not have playoff ramifications. With a lineup that included Jason Pridie, Schoop and Steve Clevenger, the Orioles ended a streak of 21 straight games of scoring five runs or fewer.
Schoop couldn’t contain his excitement, even after receiving two post-game pies to the face, an Orioles tradition.
“My major league debut, it was good,” he said. “It’s the first experience and I’m never going to forget.”
Ryan Flaherty hit a pair of two-run homers, Steve Pearce hit a solo shot and Davis doubled in a run to increase his RBI total to 137 — tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the major league lead.
Flaherty connected in the third and eighth innings. It was his second career two-homer game, both of which came against Toronto this season.
And so, after a run of 14 straight losing seasons, Baltimore (82-76) is assured of having a winning record in successive years for the first time since 1996-97.
“We’re disappointed, but one of the most impressive things in team sports to me is people who can consistently be competitive and win,” Showalter said. “It’s hard to do.”
Munenori Kawasaki and Josh Thole both had four hits for the last-place Blue Jays, who stranded 14 and went 4 for 22 with runners in scoring position.
“We kept getting guys on base. We just couldn’t get them in enough,” manager John Gibbons said. “You run into those. That’s where we could have used that home run. They got a couple of homers. We could have used one. Might have been a different story.”
T.J. McFarland (3-1) pitched one inning of relief for Baltimore and Jason Hammel worked 2 1/3 innings for his first save since 2011. Starter Bud Norris allowed three runs and seven hits over four innings and needed 96 pitches to do so.
Esmil Rogers (5-9) yielded six runs and eight hits — including two homers — in 4 1/3 innings for Toronto.
“You make a couple of mistakes, you pay at this level,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baby. If you got a mistake, you’re going to pay.”
An RBI single by Jose Reyes put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the second inning, and Toronto added two runs in the third when Anthony Gose tripled in a run and scored on a single by Thole.
Baltimore closed to 3-2 in the third. After Schoop singled in first major league at-bat, Flaherty homered to right. One inning later, Pearce homered to tie it.
The Orioles used an RBI single by Nick Markakis, a run-scoring double by Davis and an RBI groundout by Pridie to go ahead 6-3 in the fifth.
In the sixth, Schoop ripped a 2-1 pitch from Kyle Drabek over the wall in center field. Two batters later, Drabek was struck in the right ankle by a line drive and left the game. X-rays were negative.
NOTES: Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said his priority during the offseason will be to bolster the starting rotation. “That’s the most glaring hole on this team. We can go across the diamond, but if we don’t get improvement on the mound it isn’t going to matter,” he said. … Baltimore placed 3B Manny Machado on the 60-day DL to make room for Pridie, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Norfolk. Pridie is the 54th player to suit up for the Orioles, tying the 1955 team for most in a season. … Baltimore’s first nine hits were by nine different players. … The winner of Thursday’s game wins the season series. Each team has nine victories.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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