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TOR@BAL: Encarnacion belts a solo homer in the first

BALTIMORE -- Carlos Villanueva felt much better on the mound, but unfortunately for him, the results remained the same.

Villanueva, who was coming off a seven-run outing against the Rays, displayed improved velocity on his fastball, but this time it was the secondary pitches that ultimately let him down.

Villanueva's late-season struggles continued as he surrendered four home runs while the Orioles tied a franchise record with seven as a team in the Blue Jays' lopsided 12-2 loss on Wednesday night at Camden Yards.

"I thought I started out well," said Villanueva, whose ERA increased to 4.16. "The ball was breaking well, I had a live fastball, but that last inning, I was one pitch away from letting the game stay under control and it just didn't happen.

"The mistakes I made, they hit them with authority and they did a good job of punishing. They didn't just foul it off or get singles, they put the power stroke on it and made me pay for it."

Villanueva's inability to keep the ball in the park has become an ongoing storyline in recent outings. He has surrendered 10 homers in his past five starts while averaging 1.7 per nine innings on the season.

Those issues were taken to a whole new level against the Orioles. Villanueva surrendered one homer in the first and another three in the fifth en route to the right-hander's seventh loss in his past eight decisions.

Manager John Farrell didn't notice any signs of fatigue, which plagued Villanueva in St. Petersburg, but whenever a mistake was made around the plate, the Orioles made it count.

"He threw the ball with the power that we've seen for the majority of the time he has been in the rotation," Farrell said. "His secondary pitches were the pitches that were up over the middle of the plate that cost him."

Villanueva's woes began with the first batter of the game. Left fielder Nate McLouth sent a 2-2 offering over the center-field wall for his sixth of the season. Villanueva then managed to settle into a nice groove until the troublesome fifth.

Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome opened the frame with a solo shot to right field. Two batters later, it was rookie Manny Machado with his fifth of the year on a solo shot to center on a 2-1 pitch. With two outs, Farrell attempted to give Villanueva an opportunity to escape the inning, but instead things went from bad to worse.

Villanueva allowed the next two batters to reach base before the final blow came off the bat of Chris Davis. Baltimore's right fielder got a hanging 0-2 slider and drove it over the wall in center field. Villanueva crouched to his knees and put his hands on top of his head in dismay at an outing which simply got away.

"This is one of those years where everyone is just trying to pass the baton and have a good at-bat," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I thought some guys made adjustments to the pitching patterns, which was something we didn't do last night too well."

The 28-year-old Villanueva posted a 3.03 ERA in his first nine starts of the season. Since then, he is 1-4 with an 8.10 ERA in his past five outings and appears to be hitting a wall as the season draws to a conclusion. The timing couldn't have come at a worse time for the soon-to-be free agent, as the recent woes will undoubtedly affect his overall value on the open market.

"It's a shame I've had a tough road trip, but in the end, I've given it all I had this year," Villanueva said. "I've had some good stretches, I've had some tough ones, but at the same time, you still have to go out there and do the job. Free agency, you worry about that after the season."

Toronto initially took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Edwin Encarnacion hit a solo home run. He now has 42 on the year and moved into a tie with Miguel Cabrera for second place in the American League. The Blue Jays added one more run in the fifth on an RBI single by Anthony Gose, but that would be the last time Toronto cracked the scoreboard.

Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez allowed just those two runs on five hits while striking out one in seven strong innings of work.

With that, Baltimore snapped a mini two-game losing streak to remain 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

The Blue Jays have openly stated recently they would like to play the role of spoiler during the final stretch of the season. They managed to partially accomplish that feat by taking two games away from Baltimore and will have an opportunity to do something similar when the club heads home for a series with the Yankees.

"We intend to," Farrell said. "The four games that start tomorrow are going to have an effect on the outcome of this division, and certainly the playoff picture. We're hopeful to continue to put forth the effort we did in this series.

"We swung the bats much better in this four-game series than we did on the previous two series on this trip, and we're going to need that type of production offensively."

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