TORONTO -- Baltimore has picked the wrong time to be playing its worst ball of the season, kicking off a pivotal nine-game road trip against its American League East foes on Monday.
The Orioles entered the contest having lost five of their past seven games, and their struggles only continued.
Tommy Hunter was shelled in his shortest outing of the year, and the offense came up short in a ninth-inning rally in a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
"Ball was up. I didn't get the ball down," said Hunter, who allowed six runs -- five earned -- on nine hits over three innings. "I wasn't very consistent. They're a good hitting team, a good fastball-hitting team. That's the bottom line. ... It's very frustrating, especially when they hit every single pitch I threw tonight, pretty much."
Hunter is going through a difficult period, as he hasn't won in six starts since beating Toronto at Camden Yards on April 24. The 25-year-old has also struggled at Rogers Centre over the course of his career. In five outings there, including four starts, he is 0-3, with a 7.44 ERA.
"It's a really rough stretch," he said. "As soon as I can figure out how to throw a fastball down in the zone, things are going to change. It's a battle right now. I'm struggling. It's one of those things, you've got to find it, or somebody else is going to do it.
"[Rogers Centre] is sickening for me. It's something you're going to have to overcome if you want to continue your career. That's the bottom line."
Hunter admitted that he has pitched poorly but he remained upbeat, as he knows that any decision regarding his spot in the rotation is out of his control.
Manager Buck Showalter blamed the outing on poor fastball command.
The Blue Jays got to Hunter right away, putting up a run in the first on an RBI single by Colby Rasmus that cashed in leadoff man Kelly Johnson, who'd doubled to right-center.
The trouble persisted for Hunter into the second, as Toronto tacked on a run before issuing the big blows.
On a 1-1 pitch in the third, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a two-run homer to left field, his 16th of the year, to put the Blue Jays ahead, 4-0. Johnson did the same thing to Hunter in the fourth, crushing a two-run shot to dead center that chased Hunter from the game and gave Toronto a six-run lead.
Baltimore's offense was stifled for most of the night and didn't come to life until the ninth inning.
Adam Jones started the frame by extending his career-best hit streak to 19 games with a single, and Matt Wieters followed with a single of his own to center to put runners at first and second with none out.
Wilson Betemit singled home Jones, and two batters later, Mark Reynolds just missed a home run, hitting a one-out double off the fence in center to cut the Blue Jays' lead to four runs.
All of the damage came off Blue Jays reliever Francisco Cordero, who was removed after Reynolds' double for interim closer Casey Janssen.
Janssen ended the rally by retiring Robert Andino and Nick Johnson, who pinch-hit for leadoff man Xavier Avery.
Prior to the rally, the Orioles were shut down by Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison, as the 21-year-old struck out a career-high nine over seven shutout innings. The seven innings were also a career high for the young right- hander.
"Hutchison was good, real good," Showalter said. "You can see why they think so highly of him. He had great command of his fastball tonight, I thought that was the difference."
Reynolds, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game, was also impressed with Hutchison's effort.
"He was hitting the corners," said Reynolds, who went 2-for-3. "I think when he did make mistakes, we didn't really capitalize on them. He was spotting real well. It's tough to put big innings together when a guy is living away or living in and hitting his spots. He pitched real well tonight. We'll file this one away and be ready to go tomorrow."
Baltimore's offense blew its best chance to get to Hutchison in the third.
Chris Davis led off the inning with a single to right, and Reynolds followed by walking in his first plate appearance since May 10.
The next batter was Andino, and after Hutchison threw an 0-1 slider in the dirt, catcher Jeff Mathis fired to second and caught Davis -- who was hanging far off the bag -- in a rundown. Davis was called out for going out of the baseline after avoiding a tag by third baseman Brett Lawrie. Reynolds reached second on the play, and Andino ended up drawing a walk to give the Orioles another opportunity with runners at first and second.
After Avery struck out, J.J. Hardy walked to load the bases, but Nick Markakis grounded out to end the threat.
"We were looking for Andino to bunt," said Davis, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .306 on the season. "I actually thought ... I don't have a tape measure, I thought I was reasonably in the baseline. He stepped toward me, and I just kind of went around him. I don't really think he gave a great effort trying to tag me. But he made his call, it hurt us right there. That could have been a big inning."
The Orioles were shut down by Hutchison, who was coming off his worst career start, the rest of the way.
"I was able to find my release point tonight and got in a rhythm," said Hutchison, who improved to 4-2 and lowered his ERA to 4.84. "I found my release point for the first time this year, I think. That definitely had a lot to do with it. I found my slot, something I've been looking for."
Baltimore has dropped six of its past eight games but remains tied for first place with Tampa Bay, which lost earlier in the day.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.