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O's ride Kim's pinch-hit clout, cut Toronto's lead

September 28, 2016

TORONTO -- The Orioles were in serious danger of seeing the Blue Jays secure a commanding lead in the American League Wild Card standings, but one swing of the bat by Hyun Soo Kim changed all of that.Kim came through with a pinch-hit two-run homer with one out in the

TORONTO -- The Orioles were in serious danger of seeing the Blue Jays secure a commanding lead in the American League Wild Card standings, but one swing of the bat by Hyun Soo Kim changed all of that.
Kim came through with a pinch-hit two-run homer with one out in the top of the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, turning what was on track to be a discouraging loss into a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays.
The win pulled Baltimore within one game of Toronto for the top AL Wild Card spot while also maintaining the Orioles' one-game cushion over the Tigers, who secured a rain-shortened win over Cleveland on Wednesday. Baltimore also remained two games ahead of the Mariners, who defeated the Astros earlier in the day.
WC standings | 2016 tiebreaker scenarios | How to determine postseason tiebreakers

With the Blue Jays so close to seeing their AL Wild Card magic number drop to 2, closer Roberto Osuna was instead charged with a second blown save in his last three appearances. Osuna's latest outing was his fourth in five days, and it's possible that fatigue is playing a role in his recent performance.
Baltimore was held without a run for the first seven innings, but Mark Trumbo gave his club a spark with his Major League-leading 46th home run of the year, a drive to left field off right-hander Jason Grilli with two outs in the eighth inning.

"You come this far," Trumbo said. "What's the point of not giving it everything we've got? I think we have a lot of faith. We have a lot of guys with experience in here, and I think that plays pretty big. We have guys that have been here before and gotten the job done and have faith that they can do it again."

Neither starting pitcher factored into the decision. Toronto lefty Francisco Liriano scattered six hits and did not allow a run while striking out 10 over 6 1/3 innings, while Baltimore's Chris Tillman allowed two runs -- one earned -- on six hits over 5 2/3 innings. Edwin Encarnacion and Kevin Pillar hit sacrifice flies for the Blue Jays, who received two-hit efforts from Ezequiel Carrera and Troy Tulowitzki.

"I don't feel bad," Liriano said of his lost victory. "I feel a little bad for Osuna. I did my best, and we're just going to try to come back tomorrow and win a game."
Clutch Kim:
Kim, who refused an option to the Minor Leagues this spring, has developed into one of the Orioles' most consistent -- and popular -- players. He delivered the biggest hit of his young MLB career on Wednesday, pinch-hitting for Nolan Reimold. Kim sent the ninth pitch he saw from Osuna into the O's bullpen for the go-ahead drive, his sixth homer of the season.

According to Statcast™, Kim's home run was quite unlikely, coming with an exit velocity of 92.9 mph and a launch angle of 25 degrees. On 91 previous batted balls with similar traits this season, batters hit .143 with zero home runs. At 95.7 mph, Osuna's fastball tied for the hardest pitch he has thrown that was hit for a home run in the Statcast™ era.

"I think that's what it's all about -- everyone in the dugout was going nuts," Trumbo said of Kim playing the role of hero. "Obviously, that was a really hard-fought win, but especially to be him, that was great."  More >
Duensing delivers: After Mychal Givens hit two batters and issued a walk to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Orioles manager Buck Showalter called on lefty Brian Duensing to get Baltimore out of the jam. Duensing, facing pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr., sent Upton down looking at strike three to keep the O's deficit at one run.

"I told him on the mound, 'You get an out here, we're going to get you a W,'" Showalter said of Duensing. "Of course, I say that to everybody. He had six days off, and to come in with that type of command [is rare]. That is the epitome of a team win and a lot of people contributing."
Grilli gives one up: Toronto's bullpen issues were not limited to Osuna's ninth-inning stumble. According to Statcast™, Trumbo's homer off Grilli was projected to travel 386 feet and left his bat at 104 mph. Grilli has allowed five runs over his last inning of work, and after starting September with a 3.08 ERA, he now sits at 4.01.

"The guy is leading the league in home runs," Grilli said. "I was trying to get guys out, pitch aggressively. You tip your cap sometimes."

There was a bright spot for Toronto's bullpen, however. Brett Cecil is going to get opportunities to pitch in high-leverage situations with Joaquin Benoit possibly out for the season because of a torn left calf muscle. Cecil was called upon in a pressing spot on Wednesday, entering with a pair of runners on base and one out in the top of the seventh. Cecil's outing began with a strikeout of Reimold, and Tulowitzki helped end the frame at shortstop by ranging far to his right and making an off-balance throw to get Adam Jones at first by a couple of feet. Cecil has not allowed an earned run in 15 consecutive outings.  More >

Swing and a miss: Liriano got himself into some trouble in the top of the fourth inning but found a way to escape the jam, thanks to a trio of strikeouts. Jones and Chris Davis started things off with back-to-back singles, but Manny Machado, Trumbo and Trey Mancini all struck out. Liriano faced a similar situation in the fifth inning, as the O's loaded the bases again, but Davis struck out looking at a 79-mph offspeed pitch to end the frame.

"I've been working on my mechanics, and it's been working well for me," said Liriano, who posted a 5.46 ERA in 21 starts with Pittsburgh this season before being acquired by Toronto. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish, and it's been going well for me lately. I just hope that it keeps going like that."  More >
"It was big. I think that could push a team a long way in wins. It was a big team win, and I think everyone played a part in it." -- Tillman
Liriano and Aaron Sanchez became the first Blue Jays pitchers to pick up at least 10 strikeouts in back-to-back games since Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow did so in April 2011. Sanchez struck out 10 on Tuesday night.
Blue Jays starters have allowed one or zero earned runs in seven consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
Orioles:Ubaldo Jiménez will take the ball in the series finale at Toronto on Thursday night at 7:07 p.m. ET. The righty has been a beacon of consistency over the past month for the Orioles; his 5.71 ERA doesn't speak to his recent string of quality starts.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (9-9, 4.34 ERA) will make his final start of the regular season when the Blue Jays close out their three-game series vs. the Orioles. Stroman has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his five starts this month, but he's 0-4 over that span because of a lack of run support.
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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since

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Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for since

  1. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.