Orioles 8, Blue Jays 2

The Baltimore Orioles have matched their win total of last year,

and they’ve still got 36 games left to play.

It’s an impressive accomplishment – and one that barely caused a

ripple in the clubhouse.

J.J. Hardy homered and scored three runs, rookie Steve Johnson

allowed four hits over six innings and the Orioles beat the Toronto

Blue Jays 8-2 Saturday night for their 14th win in 20 games.

Hardy, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters each had two RBIs for the

Orioles (69-57), who are in the thick of the AL wild-card chase and

only four games out of first place in the AL East after going 69-93

in 2011.

Asked if he ever took a moment to consider what it means to

match last year’s win total on Aug. 25, Baltimore manager Buck

Showalter quickly said, ”No.”

”I don’t think you’re going to find anybody in that locker room

who knows that unless you tell them,” Showalter said. ”I think if

someone had told us that was going to be the benchmark this year,

they’d ask, `Who says that?’ Our guys, from Day 1 in spring

training, have a loftier goal than having a better record than last

year.”

The Orioles are also beyond simply trying to end their run of 14

straight losing seasons. Now, it’s about reaching the postseason.

Period.

”We’re in a good position,” first baseman Mark Reynolds said.

”We’re still in the wild-card hunt. It’s going to be tight coming

down the stretch. If we stay focused on the little things, the big

things will take care of themselves.”

Jones, whose two-run single in the fifth inning put the Orioles

ahead for good, said, ”The 69 wins is a product of playing good

baseball and competitive baseball on a daily basis. We’ve got 36

games to go. Let’s see our record after 36 games.”

Johnson (2-0) gave up two runs, struck out seven and walked two

in his second big-league start. The right-hander has 23 strikeouts

over 17 innings in five appearances.

”I can’t really explain it,” he said of his strikeout

total.

Toronto lost its seventh straight, and the bad news didn’t stop

there. Right fielder Jose Bautista left in the third inning with

discomfort in his left wrist, just one night after being activated

from the disabled list. Bautista was sidelined for 5 1/2 weeks with

inflammation in that same wrist.

He was put back on the DL following the game. The slugger will

see a hand specialist on Sunday, manager John Farrell said.

”In the meantime, we felt we had to put him on the disabled

list,” Farrell said.

Toronto also put first baseman David Cooper (back strain) on the

DL, activated Adam Lind (back) from the disabled list and recalled

infielder Adeiny Hechavarria from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Blue Jays fell 14 games under .500 (56-70) for the first

time since Sept. 25, 2009 (70-84). By dropping the first two games

of the three-game set, Toronto has lost six straight series.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his 34th home run in the Blue Jays’

season-high eighth straight defeat on the road.

Pitching in the majors for the first time since June 11

following a stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain,

Toronto starter Brandon Morrow (7-5) allowed four runs, two earned,

and six hits in 4 2-3 innings.

Toronto bolted to a 2-0 lead in the first. After Mike McCoy was

thrown out trying to steal, Bautista drew a two-out walk and

Encarnacion hit a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats – his third

homer in five games and fifth over a 12-game span.

Morrow struck out three of the first five batters he faced

before the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the second for

rookie Manny Machado, who struck out.

Baltimore pulled even with two unearned runs in the third. Nick

Markakis scored from second when shortstop Yunel Escobar let a

potential double-play grounder skip past him, and Wieters followed

with a sacrifice fly.

After Jones singled in two runs in the fifth, Hardy hit a

two-run drive off Chad Jenkins in the sixth and Wieters added an

RBI single for a 7-2 lead.

Machado drove in a seventh-inning run with a single. He had two

hits, matching his total over the previous six games.

NOTES: Before the game, RHP Mike Mussina and 2B Rich Dauer were

inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. … Slumping Colby Rasmus

was supposed to have a day off but entered in the third inning for

Bautista. Rasmus went 0 for 3 and has three hits in his last 42

at-bats. … Wieters threw out three would-be base stealers. It’s

the 14th time an Orioles catcher has performed the feat, the first

since Mickey Tettleton in 1988. … Escobar doubled in the seventh

to end a 7-for-47 skid. It was his second extra-base hit in 22

games. … Baltimore has been outscored 76-48 in the first inning

this season.