TORONTO -- The Orioles slugged their way to the top of the American League East standings, and based on how they have been playing lately, that's a spot they will not be giving up without a fight.
Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy and Seth Smith each homered while Wade Miley tossed six strong innings in Baltimore's 6-4 victory over Toronto on Friday night at Rogers Centre. The Orioles have at least owned a share of first place each day of the season, and they now have a 6 1/2-game lead over the last-place Blue Jays.
The Orioles did almost all of their damage against Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who was charged with five runs on seven hits and a walk. The three home runs were the second-most Sanchez has allowed in his career, and he was saddled with a loss for the first time since Aug. 6, 2016. Baltimore has won all four of its games against the Blue Jays this season.
"[Sanchez is] one of the better pitchers in the league, they run one out there every night. That's why they've been so successful, one of the many reasons," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "It's funny how the script changes. I think they struck out 15 times and we struck out five or six tonight.
"It's why you come to the park and see what the boys have in store for you every day. We pitched well out of the 'pen again."
Toronto took an early 3-1 lead, but it could not hang on. Justin Smoak finished 2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI single in his best offensive game of the year. Smoak was the only Blue Jay to reach base more than once as most of the lineup continued to struggle. Devon Travis is hitless in his past 29 at-bats, while Smoak is surprisingly the only healthy regular position player with a batting average above .255.
Baltimore once again closed the game out with a scoreless performance from its bullpen. Darren O'Day and Brad Brach pitched scoreless innings to set the table for Zach Britton, who allowed the tying run to reach base but came through with his 54th consecutive save, which ties him with Tom Gordon for the second-longest in Major League history. Eric Gagne holds the top spot with 84 consecutive saves from 2002-04.
"I felt like I was throwing the ball well early on," said Sanchez, who allowed five or more runs for the sixth time in his career. "Towards the later part of the game, the balls kind of creeped into the middle. Curveballs that didn't have much depth to them and got hit hard. It was just one of those nights."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hardy homers: Hardy put the Orioles in front for good with a two-run homer to deep left field in the top of the fifth. According to Statcast™, Hardy's first of the year left his bat at 99 mph and was projected to travel 395 feet. That homer came just two batters after Schoop hit a solo shot as the three-run inning sapped what little momentum Toronto had built. Sanchez allowed just two multi-homer games in 2016.
"It's the way our offense works: If we're going good, there's going to be a lot of homers," said Hardy. "I think there was four tonight, so definitely not surprised."
Smoak show: The Blue Jays had gone 34 innings without having a lead until Smoak sparked a rally in the bottom of the second with an RBI single to left field. In the next at-bat, Darwin Barney brought home the go-ahead run with a sharp grounder to third that was bobbled by Manny Machado. Two innings later, Smoak stepped up to the plate and delivered a solo shot to left field for his first home run of the season. According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 412 feet, giving the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead, though they were unable to hold it.
"You just have to grind through it," Smoak said of the team's early-season struggles. "Yeah, it's early, but at the same time, you want to win ballgames and you're playing against teams in the division that you're competing against. Just have to keep grinding through it. It'll turn, and hopefully it's tomorrow."
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"We've been analyzing for the last week. I'm not going to overanalyze anything. Like I said, we got some hits tonight, and that's a good thing for us. We're going to strike out. That's who we are. That's the American League East in a lot of ways. I'm encouraged by the [10 hits], and I hope tomorrow is a big day for us." -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, on his team striking out 15 times and not walking once
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Smoak's home run in the fifth inning was Toronto's first since April 9 at Tampa Bay, which was a span of 38 innings.
Travis snapped an 0-for-29 hitless streak with an RBI single in the ninth inning.
Orioles:Alec Asher (0-0, 0.00) makes his O's debut on Saturday afternoon at 1:07 p.m. ET on MLB.TV in the third game of a four game series with the Blue Jays. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings striking out six and allowing four hits in his lone start with Triple-A Norfolk this season..
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (0-1, 5.73 ERA) will make his third start of the season when this series continues Saturday afternoon on MLB.TV. Estrada faced Baltimore earlier this season on Opening Day and he allowed two earned runs on five hits and a pair of walks.
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