These Orioles, though, are seemingly a creative bunch, and they added a new wrinkle Sunday afternoon: Allowing their former top pitching prospect to hit the first homer of his big league career in a game-changing moment.
With the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, starter Tommy Hunter served up a 400-foot-plus shot to Adam Loewen, the Orioles' first-rounder in 2002 who is making his comeback as an outfielder after elbow injuries derailed his mound career.
"I know so many guys over there, it was special to do it against them," said Loewen, who made his debut as a right fielder Wednesday before starting in center Sunday against his former team. "This is my life now, so this is probably my biggest moment. I'm a Blue Jay and just to help the team win in a [6-5] game, to tie it up, is a great thrill."
The crowd of 14,235 jumped to its feet as the Canadian-born Loewen trotted around the bases for the first time in a major league uniform.
"The fans at the Rogers Centre are loud and I think hitting a home run compared to striking somebody out is a lot louder and a lot better feeling," Loewen said.
Hunter entered the seventh having thrown just 81 pitches and having yielded three runs (one earned). But another rookie, David Cooper, led off the inning with his second big league home run. After Loewen tied the game, Hunter gave up a double and a single before being pulled.
Jose Bautista followed with a sacrifice fly against Willie Eyre that broke the tie and ultimately gave Toronto (74-74) the win. It was the Blue Jays' 12th victory in 18 games against the Orioles (58-87) this season and the 15th of 18 in Toronto since the beginning of 2010.
"I don't know what it is about this place. We come in here and it is tough for us to win," said Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis. "I can't tell you what it is. We just struggle most of the time here."
Hunter (3-4) lasted 6 1/3 innings, the seventh consecutive time he has pitched at least six innings. But he again failed to get a quality start after getting hit around in the seventh.
"I've got to go out there and I've got to do a better job. I've got to figure out a way to finish a ballgame," Hunter said. "Fatigue is not a question. I've got to be smarter about some situations."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he thought Hunter elevated his pitches in the seventh, but if others would have done their jobs, the end result wouldn't have hinged on one run.
First baseman Mark Reynolds couldn't field a bunt cleanly to lead off the first inning and the error led to two unearned runs. It was Reynolds' 29th error -- only three at first base and the others at third -- which leads the majors.
"I'm a little more concerned defensively [about] the couple runs we gave them early," Showalter said. "At this level of play, guys certainly jump on those extra outs."
Offensively, the Orioles' offense drew nine walks -- second most this season -- and had seven hits, but stranded 11 runners and were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position. All five of the runs they scored initially reached base via walks -- but the big hit was lacking.
Markakis had a two-run single in the fourth and rookie Matt Angle had an RBI base hit in the second. The Orioles scored their other two runs on a sacrifice fly and a groundout.
"You have to convert whenever you give yourself the opportunity to put runs on the board," said third baseman Chris Davis, who was 1-for-3 with two walks, but struck out against Toronto reliever Frank Francisco (14th save) with a runner on second to end the game.
"It seems like we have done a good job in putting guys on and getting them around, but we've fallen a little short in getting them in," Davis said. "That's stuff you've got to learn."
Four of the Orioles' last five games have been decided by a run -- including two straight losses to the Blue Jays -- games in which they led at one point.
"When this team really learns to put games away, we are going to win a lot more games," Davis said. "It seems like the last week there have been a lot of one-run ballgames and the momentum has switched late in the game and not always in our favor. So I think it is part of learning and growing as a team."
The Orioles now head home for six games before embarking on their final road trip of the season. Their remaining 17 contests are against clubs that are in playoff contention. They have to win at least five to avoid a 100-loss season.
The Orioles had a shot for a victory Sunday, but Loewen, once the future of the pitching staff, hurt them with his bat.
"To see him do that, and to see him hit his first home run -- you don't want to see it -- but it happened and I got to see it and I am happy for him," said Markakis, who roomed with Loewen in the minors and majors. "I hope he has a healthy and successful career. I'm sure I'll be seeing him, playing against him, a lot."
Notes: Rogers Centre held a pre-game tribute to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy in the United States, complete with color guards from Canadian police, fire and rescue units. Instead of a first pitch, Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero placed a ball on the mound and the names of the 24 Canadians killed in the attacks were shown on the stadium's video screen. Players from both teams set up on the foul lines instead of their usual spots outside the dugouts. Center fielder Adam Jones was scratched from the lineup for the second consecutive day because of a sore left ankle. Sunday was the Orioles' annual rookie dress-up day in which the younger players had to don embarrassing outfits for the plane ride home. Costumes included a big banana, a Hooters outfit, skimpy dresses and prison garb. Bobby Dickerson, who has served as an extra coach, leaves the team Sunday to help with the instructional league in Sarasota. Brian Graham, the organization's minor league instruction coordinator, will join the Orioles on Monday and minor league coaches Denny Hocking and Jose Hernandez will also join the Orioles periodically to throw batting practice.
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