Benson sharp but Orioles stumble
Right-hander gives up two runs on five hits in six innings
BALTIMORE -- Melvin Mora gambled and lost, short-circuiting a ninth-inning rally and providing a fitting end to a night where the Orioles seemed intent on giving away runs, then outs, to the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
An ill-advised dash that would have cut the Blue Jays lead to a run turned into a game-ending double play and the Blue Jays escaped with a 5-3 triumph over Baltimore, their second straight victory at Camden Yards.
Called on to protect a two-run cushion and record his 15th save -- and his fourth of the year against his former team -- Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan found himself on the ropes. With one out, Mora singled and Miguel Tejada drew a walk. With Ramon Hernandez hitting, they executed a double steal, putting the potential tying runs in scoring position.
Hernandez battled Ryan to a full-count before lofting a pop fly to short left-field, and that's when Mora's inexplicably poor decision ended any hopes of a completed comeback.
With his back to the infield and his momentum carrying him deeper into left, shortstop Aaron Hill made the catch. He turned an uncorked a looping, defensive off-balance throw to hold the runners. But Mora ignored third-base coach Tom Trebelhorn's instructions to stay put and was three-quarters of the way down the third-base line when the relay one-hopped into the glove of catcher Bengie Molina, who easily applied the tag on a sliding Mora to complete the rally-killing double play.
"I just saw that [Hill] went back and the left fielder never come in on the ball," said Mora, who had earlier committed a throwing error that led to two unearned seventh-inning runs. "I said, 'I don't think he's going to throw me out from that far.' I didn't hear anything. I just heard the people making noise. That's the one play I, just myself, have to read."
Then, quietly, Mora added: "I should have been more sure to go to home."
Trebelhorn didn't dispute Mora's critique of the play.
"I didn't send him," Trebelhorn said. "I said, 'You can't go.' Then I looked up and he's tagging up and going. He didn't hear me?"
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo has praised Mora's sometimes unorthodox style of play -- such as bunting for base hits from the third position in the batting order -- but even Perlozzo seemed incredulous that Mora would take the bat out of the hands of Kevin Millar, who was on deck when Hernandez popped out.
"Basically, that run really meant nothing to us," Perlozzo said. "He made a great double steal to get us in a position to win that ballgame, to tie it. ... I think he just misread the ball and thought he had an easy score."
"Being that I was going back on the ball, I mean, a few more steps, [and] he would've been safe," Hill explained. "I got it enough where I wasn't still running backwards. I got to plant my feet and make a strong enough throw."
Strong enough to add one more frustration on a maddening night for the Orioles.
Kris Benson's solid six-inning effort was marred by wildness that contributed to two Toronto runs. Benson (6-4), facing Toronto rookie right-hander Casey Janssen for the third time this season, allowed two runs on five hits, walked two and struck out four. But a hit batsman and two wild pitches helped the Blue Jays score single runs in the second and third innings.
"Command-wise, I didn't have a feel for it early on," Benson said. "I had to battle to get it. ... Fortunately, it did come around."
Before Benson found his groove, retiring 12 of the final 14 batters he faced before departing after 105 pitches, he was already down 2-0.
The right-hander plunked Shea Hillenbrand in the left arm leading off the second, and Toronto loaded the bases with one out on Molina's single and a walk to Edgardo Alfonzo. After Alex Rios fanned, Benson uncorked a wild pitch with Frank Catalanotto hitting and Hillenbrand scored.
Toronto went up 2-0 in the third when Vernon Wells hit a leadoff single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and came home on Lyle Overbay's grounder to first.
In the Orioles' third, Brandon Fahey doubled, moved to third on a groundout by Nick Markakis and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brian Roberts, who broke out of an 0-for-19 slump with three hits.
Janssen (5-3), who was 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in two previous losses to Benson, worked six innings. He allowed one run on six hits, walked none and struck out five, winning his fourth consecutive decision after five relievers got the final nine outs.
The Blue Jays scored two unearned runs against reliever Todd Williams in the seventh after Mora sailed a throw wide of Millar at first. Baltimore rallied for two runs against the Blue Jays bullpen in the bottom of the inning on Tejada's RBI single and a bases-loaded walk to Millar, who prevailed in a marathon 10-pitch at-bat.
But Scott Schoeneweis relieved Justin Speier and got pinch-hitter Jeff Conine to ground out to second to end the threat. Alfonzo had to fall to his knees to block the grounder, which momentarily got away from him, and one-hopped a weak throw to Overbay for the out.
The Blue Jays led off the ninth with consecutive doubles by Reed Johnson and Wells, who had four hits, to add an insurance run off reliever John Halama. It was the only run Toronto scored without any help from the Orioles.
"There were a lot of things that happened in the game that didn't go our way," Perlozzo said. "They just didn't go our way. We didn't get a hit, we didn't get a play, make a mistake on the bases. When you add it all up, in a ballgame like it was tonight, it'll come back to get you."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.