Morales belts 3 HRs; Jays stop Orioles’ 7-game win streak
BALTIMORE — Kendrys Morales watched balls soar off his bat into the bleachers at Camden Yards.
In the process, the Toronto Blue Jays’ designated hitter managed to cool down one of the hottest teams in the major leagues.
Morales hit three home runs and set a career high with seven RBIs as Toronto snapped the Baltimore Orioles’ seven-game winning streak with a 11-8 victory Thursday night.
Toronto ended a four-game skid and pushed the Orioles back to 2 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second American League wild card.
“It’s difficult to do, so you have to feel good about it,” Morales said through an interpreter. “Plus, we got a win on top of that, so it feels great.”
Adam Jones and Chris Davis went deep for Baltimore, which broke the MLB record for home runs in August with 57.
“We finished up a good month in August when a lot of people are really challenged physically,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “And I’m real proud of the month our guys put together to get back in this.”
Morales’ third homer in the eighth tied his career high and gave Toronto a commanding 11-6 lead. The Orioles pulled within three runs on Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista’s error on a single by Tim Beckham and another RBI single by Jonathan Schoop off Ryan Tepera.
But that’s as close as Baltimore came as Roberto Osuna picked up his 35th save with a scoreless ninth.
“Huge day,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about Morales. “Three homers. Drove in seven runs. Obviously what we needed on a night like tonight, falling behind. It’s been great to see. He’s starting to heat up a little. A win is a win. It wasn’t necessarily a pretty thing.”
Marco Estrada (7-8) entered the game 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season. This time, Estrada struggled against the Orioles, allowing six runs and 10 hits with four strikeouts and a walk in five innings.
“I threw the ball pretty well to be honest with you,” Estrada said. “I don’t think they hit too many pitches all that well. There were a few hard hit balls. I made some decent pitches, but they’re a hot team right now. It is a very good lineup.”
Jones gave the Orioles the lead in the first inning with a two-run shot off Estrada that just cleared the left field wall. Baltimore led 3-0 in the next inning after Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson could not barehand a slow grounder by Beckham that allowed Davis to score from third.
Morales cut the margin to 3-2 in the third with a two-run homer off Jeremy Hellickson.
Baltimore, however, answered in the bottom half when singles by Schoop and Jones put runners on the corners. Two batters later, Davis hit a grounder to second that allowed Schoop to score. Mark Trumbo followed with a single and the lead was 5-2.
Toronto chased Hellickson (2-3) in the fifth with five runs. Morales had an RBI single and Miguel Montero and Kevin Pillar each had two-run doubles.
Hellickson tied a season high by allowing seven runs and seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 4 2/3 innings.
“Command was a little off,” Hellickson said. “I just fell behind on way too many guys. Too many walks. This has happened way too many times this years. I mean, two outs, no runs. Just like that, there was a five-spot up there. So, I’ve got to find a way to get that third out that inning.”
Davis hit a solo shot in the fifth that cut the deficit to 7-6.
“We lost tonight, tough loss, but we’ve been playing good baseball,” Beckham said. “We don’t want to dwell on that. We want to come back in tomorrow and bang some more.”
NOTES: Blue Jays 1B Justin Smoak (sore calf) did not play for the second consecutive game. It was only the third time this season he was not in the lineup. He is batting .287 with 36 homers and 84 RBIs. ... Baltimore SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) is expected to come off the 60-day disabled list Friday, according to manager Buck Showalter. ... Toronto RHP Aaron Sanchez (blister) will begin throwing off a mound in Baltimore this weekend, manager John Gibbons said.