Baltimore fights back to top Toronto
Six-run eighth inning sends Orioles past Blue Jays in opener
TORONTO -- Who needs a strong start when you can use a lethal finishing kick?
The Orioles used their power stroke to overcome another brief outing by Brian Burres on Friday night, bailing him out with a late six-run burst. Baltimore managed to go scoreless for seven innings before breaking out for three home runs in the eighth, and a two-run blast by Adam Jones helped lift the road team to a 6-5 win over Toronto.
"We don't quit, and tonight was another example of that," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "You've got guys believing they're going to get it done. Give us a little bit of an opening and we're going to take advantage of it."
The eighth started innocently enough, with Brian Roberts reaching Toronto starter Shaun Marcum for a leadoff double. The Blue Jays (32-31) went to the bullpen at that point, and Nick Markakis drove home Baltimore's first run. After that, Melvin Mora drilled a two-run homer and Kevin Millar tied the game on a solo shot, setting the stage for Jones.
Veteran reliever Armando Benitez had allowed Millar's game-tying homer, and the next batter reached base on an error by David Eckstein. Moments later, Jones put Baltimore (30-30) ahead for good with a blast to left field.
"After Kevin Millar hit the home run to tie the game, I was jumping," said Mora, who jolted the O's. "I was more excited than when I hit the homer, because I know we can come back. Then, Adam Jones made pretty good contact."
"A lot can happen in those last three innings," added Millar. "This team showed a lot of character tonight to keep battling, because Marcum will put you in a funk. He doesn't throw a ball above the knees [and] he doesn't throw a bunch of fastballs. It's all cutters and changeups and all this other stuff. We just stayed focused and were having good at-bats."
Baltimore still had to work for the win, despite the late heroics. Toronto pushed runners to second and third with no outs against reliever Chad Bradford in the eighth inning and pulled within one run on a groundout. Bradford managed to escape that threat, though, and southpaw closer George Sherrill worked the ninth for his 21st save of the season.
Six of Baltimore's nine starters scored a run, and seven of the nine came through with at least one hit.
"It was a great game for the team," said Trembley. "There were a lot of guys who had tremendous nights tonight, and it's good to see we got the win. You'd hate to waste a lot of those numbers tonight and lose the game."
Burres has been knocked out before the end of the fifth inning in three straight starts. The 27-year-old has just one win in his past nine outings and has seen his ERA rise by nearly two runs (from 3.16 to 4.96) in his past three starts, but he managed to limit the damage against the Blue Jays.
Toronto got its offense early, scratching out two runs off Burres in the second inning. Scott Rolen started the rally with a leadoff double and wound up scoring on a single by Rod Barajas. Brad Wilkerson singled in another run, and Kevin Mench made it a three-run game with a sacrifice fly.
Burres didn't get a chance to complete the fifth, but Baltimore's bullpen kept it in the game. Lance Cormier got seven outs, and Dennis Sarfate got another key out in the team's effort to pick up Burres.
"I thought his fastball, at times, was better," said Trembley of his starter. "But his location of his changeup, I thought, was up. I think he tried to overthrow his curveball sometimes. His arm speed was better. His finish on some of his pitches was better. But I'd say this was probably the third or fourth start where he's been somewhat out of sync."
Marcum, meanwhile, was on his game. The right-hander allowed seven hits, but he only let three baserunners reach scoring position in the first seven innings. Roberts reached him for the leadoff double in the eighth, and the Orioles felt like they had new life against Brian Tallet and Benitez. Four batters later, the game was tied.
"It makes you look so dead when he's pitching such a good game," Millar said of Marcum. "He commands the game so well [and] doesn't give you a whole lot of pitches to swing at. Finally, we got him out of there and had some good at-bats."
"The ball that Mora hit, I thought, really woke us up," said Trembley of his team's late comeback. "The guys just believe they're going to get it done. I keep saying it, and I know it probably seems like a broken record, but there's a tremendous sense of purpose when we play. When we're behind, we're not going to give it away. We're going to keep fighting."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.