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Jimenez shines as Orioles blank Blue Jays to pull even in AL wild-card race

Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado (13), and Chris Davis (19) celebrate defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB baseball action in Toronto, Thursday September 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
September 29, 2016 - 10:21 PM

TORONTO - Thursday night's game may have been the last one Jose Bautista played in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform at Rogers Centre.

After going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in a 4-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the pending free agent said he had more pressing things on his mind, however.

"I'm not trying to think about that," Bautista said following the loss, which allowed Baltimore to pull even with Toronto (87-22) atop the American League wild-card standings with three games to play for both teams.

"I'm focused on winning games and just making the playoffs."

Ubaldo Jimenez (8-12), who had struggled against the Blue Jays this season, dazzled through 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit — to the first batter he faced — while walking three and striking out five for Baltimore (87-72).

Kevin Pillar added to Ezequiel Carrera's lead-off hit with a single off reliever Brad Brach in the eighth. Edwin Encarnacion, also a pending free agent, tagged Brach with a double in the ninth.

The rest of the offence sputtered, a theme that's plagued the Blue Jays through most of September.

With three games against the AL East champion Red Sox in Boston beginning Friday, they're running out of time to correct their course.

"It's been a slow month for the offence but for the most part we've been scoring enough runs — we're 15 games over .500 and our pitching has done outstanding, so we've had a really good season," Bautista said. "Obviously we've got to clean it up and get these victories we need to secure the playoff spot. That's it."

The Orioles play three games against the Yankees in New York while Detroit, which is 1 1/2 games back of Toronto and Baltimore, takes on Atlanta this weekend.

The Tigers had their home game against Cleveland postponed due to rain earlier Thursday and will play the make-up game on Monday.

Seattle, which is two games back of the Jays and Orioles, closes its regular-season schedule against Oakland.

Manager John Gibbons knows his team's predicament isn't ideal.

"You have to stay positive in this game — sometimes you just get beat. Sometimes they outplay you, sometimes they outpitch you," Gibbons said. "Boston's a very tough place to play but we also manage to play pretty good there. I'm not worried about our guys.

"Our backs are against the wall but we're still in a good spot. It won't be easy. It's not supposed to be easy."

Hyun Soo Kim and Matt Wieters drove in a run apiece and Manny Machado hit a sacrifice fly to aid Baltimore's win.

Marcus Stroman (9-10) allowed four runs on nine hits through seven-plus innings in the loss.

The right-hander, who surpassed 200 innings on the season to become the only Blue Jays starter to reach that milestone this year, also struck out three and walked two.

"It's cool. It's not something I'm really thinking about right now," Stroman deadpanned about his 200-inning benchmark. "That was one of the goals going into the year. At this point, you need to do everything you can to keep your team in the game to win. At the end of the day, I didn't do that."

Baltimore got out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Machado plated J.J. Hardy on a sac fly. Hardy had led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a groundout.

The Orioles extended the lead in the next inning when Chris Davis scored on a force out from Michael Bourn. Toronto's Josh Donaldson tried to turn a double play on Bourn's ground ball, but his throw to second was high, forcing Devon Travis to leap to catch it before getting the out.

The sell-out crowd of 47,791 voiced their displeasure with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez's strike zone in the seventh when a Stroman pitch to Bourn was called Ball 3. Bourn walked on the next pitch, stole second and later scored on Kim's single.

Wieters made it 4-0 with his RBI single off Stroman in the eighth.

The Blue Jays had chances early. They had runners on first and second with nobody out in the first inning but a fly out, strikeout and groundout ended the threat. Then Travis led off the third with a walk and advanced to second on a Carrera sac bunt. He was stranded there following back-to-back groundouts from Donaldson and Encarnacion.

"We just need to get back to hitting the baseball, getting on base and knocking them in," Bautista said. "We had seven chances today with runners in scoring position and obviously that falls on guys like me to drive the runs in and we have to do a better job."

NOTES: Toronto announced the promotion of Joe Sheehan to assistant GM before the game. The Jays also appointed Perry Minasian to the position of special assistant to the GM and hired Steve Sanders as amateur scouting director.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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