BALTIMORE — The bullpen door kept swinging open, and one Toronto pitcher after another made his way to the mound seeking to keep the powerful Baltimore Orioles in check.
Five Blue Jays relievers combined for five shutout innings, and Toronto overcame home runs by Chris Davis and Adam Jones in a 7-3 victory Saturday.
Davis increased his major league-leading home run total to 36 with his third long ball in three games, a solo shot in the second inning. Reggie Jackson is the only player in AL history with more home runs before the All-Star break, hitting 37 in 1969.
J.P. Arencibia gave the Blue Jays the lead with a two-run single in the sixth, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 25th homer and Maicer Izturis had three hits to help the Blue Jays secure their fourth win in 11 games.
But the key was the bullpen.
Aaron Loup (4-3) got the victory with 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief. Loup replaced starter Todd Redmond, who allowed three runs in four innings.
Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar followed before Casey Janssen entered with one out in the ninth and struck out Nate McLouth and Manny Machado for his 18th save in 19 chances.
“The bullpen came in and there’s not much to say other than they’ve really been lights out the whole year and continue to pitch that way,” Arencibia said.
Baltimore managed only three hits over the final five innings after Davis and Jones went deep to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
“They hammer mistakes. If you make them against these guys, they’re going to make you pay,” Arencibia said. “That’s why they are as good as they are.”
One of the positives this season for the last-place Blue Jays has been the performance of their bullpen. When rested, it’s tough to beat.
“Those guys have been used pretty good this year, but with one more game before the (All-Star) break we knew we could do that today,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
The strategy worked.
“They’ve got a good bullpen,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Once they got the lead there, they can really match up with you.”
Baltimore led 3-2 before the Blue Jays took the lead in the sixth against Jason Hammel (7-6). Singles by Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus and Izturis loaded the bases for Arencibia, who lined a single to left.
Toronto pulled away with three runs in the seventh. Jose Bautista hit an RBI double, then Lind and Rasmus delivered run-scoring grounders.
Toronto’s Brett Lawrie, activated from the disabled list before the game, went 0 for 4 in his first big league start at second base. Lawrie was moved from third base so that Izturis could stay in the lineup.
Hammel gave up six runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.59 ERA in eight starts since May 27 and has surrendered 19 home runs this season compared to nine all last year.
Asked to assess his latest performance, Hammel replied, “Unacceptable. Far too many base runners. Get behind hitters. Fastball-hitting club that I am feeding fastballs. It’s easy to hit when you know what’s coming. I am not throwing sliders for strikes. Not throwing curveballs where I want them. Changeup is non-existent. I’m beating myself right now.”
Although he has a winning record, his 5.24 ERA is more indicative of his first-half performance.
“These guys are battling for me,” Hammel said. “You may get runs, you may not. But you’ve still got to make pitches during that time. And I’m not doing it.”