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TOR@BAL: Blue Jays take the lead on a fielding error

BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays arrived here earlier this week riding a season-high four-game winning streak, but any momentum from that stretch has since evaporated.

Toronto managed a total of three runs in three games en route to being swept by an Orioles team that isn't exactly known for its pitching.

The final blow occurred on Thursday night with another narrow defeat as the Blue Jays' offense once again came up short in a 5-2 loss at Camden Yards.

"It's no secret we didn't score many runs, but we're going to keep plugging away," right fielder Jose Bautista said. "It's a long season, we're still falling right around .500 [10-9], and the most encouraging thing is that our pitchers are doing a great job, so that's excellent news and hopefully they can continue to do that.

"I'm not really worried about our offense, I know we're going to pick it up. I just hope we do it sooner than later."

Toronto entered the series ranked fourth in the American League in runs scored. The club had just departed Kansas City with a four-game sweep in a series during which the Blue Jays outscored their opposition, 22-12.

But it turned into a much different story against Baltimore. The Blue Jays scored just one run on Tuesday, zero on Wednesday and two unearned runs against Orioles starter Brian Matusz on Thursday night.

Some of those offensive problems had existed before this week but were masked by the fact that Toronto is leading the Major Leagues with a .336 average (45-for-134) with runners in scoring position. The problem against the O's is that there were so few baserunners the opportunities to come through were few and far between.

"This was obviously a tough series," manager John Farrell said. "We have to regroup and be prepared to come out and play Seattle [on Friday], but we've got to play better collectively as a group, as a staff. The way this road trip started off with a four-game sweep in Kansas City to have it end [this way] kind of leaves a bad taste, but we have to regroup and be ready to go [Friday]."

The Blue Jays looked poised for a breakout night at the plate against Matusz, but the expected results never surfaced. Matusz, who entered the game riding a Major League-worst 12-game losing streak, was 0-3 with a 13.09 ERA in his career against Toronto.

Despite the subpar numbers, the Blue Jays were held in check for the first five innings and entered the top of the sixth having not scored in 20 consecutive frames. Toronto put runners on first and second with two outs, but the streak looked like it was going to remain intact until O's first baseman Nick Johnson gift-wrapped Toronto a pair of runs.

Eric Thames hit a chopper down the first-base line and instead of charging the ball, Johnson opted to stay back and let it come to him. The ball traveled with a lot of topspin and took an awkward bounce to sneak past Johnson and into right field.

Both runners came around to score and Thames ended up on third. The play was originally ruled a triple, but the official scorer later changed it to an error on Johnson. That was the only offense the Blue Jays could generate off Matusz, who was forced to take a no-decision after allowing just five hits and two walks in six strong innings.

"It's a little bit surprising, but I'm not going to dwell on it," Bautista said of the lack of offense after going 1-for-11 in the series and 4-for-25 on the road trip. "We have more important games ahead of us and our pitchers are doing awesome. On the offensive side, we'd like to give them better support."

Pitching has been a strength all season and it was no different in Baltimore. Toronto allowed just five runs in the first two games and on Thursday, it was rookie right-hander Drew Hutchison's chance to shine.

Hutchison, who was making just his second career start, pitched five-plus innings and allowed two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out three. That marked the 21st consecutive time a Blue Jays starter has pitched at least five innings, which trails only the White Sox for the longest streak in the Major Leagues.

The shot at a Toronto victory evaporated in the eighth, though, when Casey Janssen hung a first-pitch breaking ball that Adam Jones hammered. His sixth homer of the year went just beyond the outstretched glove of Thames and into the seats in left field.

Left-hander Darren Oliver was then called upon, and he promptly surrendered a two-run homer to Chris Davis. That secured a three-game sweep for Baltimore and forced Toronto to settle for a 4-3 record on its road trip.

"If the situation calls for it, I'm not going to shy away from it," Jones said of his flair for the dramatic. "I'm just looking for something out over the plate. Not necessarily a first-pitch slider away, but I was looking for a heater up, something to drive. I was able to just get enough of it to hit it out."

The Blue Jays head back north of the border to open a three-game series against the Mariners. After that, their schedule gets tougher with upcoming matchups against the Rangers and Angels.

The lack of offense in Baltimore was frustrating, but that doesn't mean anyone is going to push the panic button in preparation for the looming challenges.

"We're certainly not going to make wholesale changes and we'll continue to work and to prepare," Farrell said.

"We'll have a chance to talk [Friday] in our advance meeting. I don't think anyone likes come out of here with a sweep." Comments