TORONTO (AP) — Baltimore has been leaning on its bullpen and the bill came due Tuesday night.
The game was tied to begin the eighth inning, but Evan Meek and Josh Stinson each surrendered three-run homers and the Orioles tumbled to 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
Baltimore’s starters entered the game having thrown the second-fewest innings in the American League. The Orioles received 5 2/3 from Miguel Gonzalez before manager Buck Showalter turned to four relievers to get him through the rest of the game.
With key relievers Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz having thrown on consecutive days, Showalter didn’t have many options after yanking Gonzalez in the sixth.
“I just don’t want to put them in harm’s way,” Showalter said.
Meek allowed a three-run homer to Brett Lawrie, snapping a 3-all tie, and Melky Cabrera connected for his fifth of the season off Josh Stinson later in the frame, putting the Blue Jays in front 9-3.
“I just didn’t make good pitches tonight,” Meek said. “The homer, he went down and got it. It’s frustrating, you still have to make good pitches.”
Baltimore fell to 2-3 on its seven-game road trip and 8-8 against the AL East.
Before the Orioles’ bullpen imploded, Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey and Gonzalez were locked in a pitchers’ duel early on.
Baltimore was unable to solve Dickey through five innings, but the club’s fortunes changed against the knuckleballer in the sixth. After Steve Lombardozzi hit a leadoff double, Dickey issued a walk to put two on for Nelson Cruz, who hit a three-run homer, his fourth of the season, to put the Orioles ahead, 3-0.
The Orioles didn’t hold the lead for long.
Like Dickey, Gonzalez cruised through five innings and entered the sixth with a lead, but gave it right back in a hurry. With two on and one out, Edwin Encarnacion crushed his first homer of the season to tie it at 3.
Gonzalez allowed three runs — two earned — on four hits, while walking two and striking out a season-high seven. T.J. McFarland, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game, relieved Gonzalez and stranded a pair of runners to get the Orioles out of the inning.
“He gave us a chance to win, I can’t fault his effort,” Showalter said of Gonzalez. “It’s not easy going through these lineups.”
Dickey came back out for the seventh and was quickly chased after allowing back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third, but Baltimore came up short.
With the bases loaded and one out, left-hander Brett Cecil struck out Adam Jones and Steve Clevenger.
Dickey allowed three runs on six hits, walked three, hit a batter, and struck out six. Toronto’s No. 1 starter has issued a major league-leading 18 walks and a 5.90 ERA after five starts.
“There’s a consistent pattern that’s emerging where I feel like I’m an All-Star for the first four or five innings of a ball game, then I get to pitches 75 to 100 and it’s like I’m a different human being out there,” Dickey said. “I’m trying to figure out what’s that’s about physically, but there are a lot of positives.”
Chris Davis has reached base safely in 18 straight games, setting a career high on a seventh-inning walk.
NOTES: Orioles 3B Manny Machado (left knee) is expected to begin a rehab assignment Friday at High A Frederick. Machado has yet to play a game this season. … Baltimore C Matt Wieters (forearm) and SS J.J. Hardy (hamstring) were out of the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener and are considered day to day. … Orioles OF Steve Pearce was designated for assignment to make room for McFarland on the club’s 25-man roster. … Toronto OF Jose Bautista walked in the first inning and has reached base safely in all 20 games this season, the longest active streak in baseball. … Blue Jays RH Dustin McGowan will face Orioles RH Chris Tillman on Wednesday night.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)