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O's hope to stay in playoff hunt with pitching

Offense has carried club during August hot streak
Special to MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- Once Adam Jones' two-run homer had slipped over the left-field fence and out of view, a first-inning souvenir for Camden Yards, Blue Jays catcher Miguel Montero scooped up a clump of dirt and forcefully chucked it to the ground.

Montero and Toronto would channel that frustration into an offensive onslaught Thursday, chasing Baltimore starter Jeremy Hellickson from the game after 4 2/3 innings and seven earned runs. 

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BALTIMORE -- Once Adam Jones' two-run homer had slipped over the left-field fence and out of view, a first-inning souvenir for Camden Yards, Blue Jays catcher Miguel Montero scooped up a clump of dirt and forcefully chucked it to the ground.

Montero and Toronto would channel that frustration into an offensive onslaught Thursday, chasing Baltimore starter Jeremy Hellickson from the game after 4 2/3 innings and seven earned runs. 

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Baltimore's offense was not to blame for the 11-8 loss that ended a seven-game winning streak. The O's had 16 hits, continuing the hot stretch that has unearthed a previously struggling campaign and pushed the team back into playoff contention. Even in defeat, the Orioles are 2 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second spot in the American League Wild Card race.

The Orioles led by three runs going into the fifth inning, and then pulled to within one run after Chris Davis' solo shot in the bottom of the inning countered Toronto's five-run rally in the top. But on both occasions the team's pitching halted the offense's progress.

As September begins and the AL Wild Card race intensifies, the Orioles' pitching staff will aim to prove that Thursday was an anomaly, and not a trend.

Video: TOR@BAL: Showalter talks about Hellickson's outing

"When you score eight runs, you got to win the ballgame," Hellickson said, looking downward. "This offense is just too good to give up that many runs. You've got to make it easy on them sometimes."

The Orioles' two home runs on Thursday pushed their August total to 57, leaving them one shy of the Major League record for homers in any month held by the 1999 Mariners (May) and 1987 Orioles (May).

It was a continuation of a scorching month for the O's, who lead the Majors with 82 home runs since the All-Star break. They entered the contest hitting .303 with runners in scoring position, the best mark in baseball.

The team's pitching numbers are less friendly. Orioles starters entered the game with 52 quality starts, below the Major League average of 59. By comparison, Washington has the most with 87 quality starts.

Hellickson kept the Orioles in the game early Thursday but left having allowed seven runs on seven hits, with four walks and two strikeouts. He was knocked out of the game by a Kevin Pillar double in the fifth, which put Toronto up, 7-5.

Before the night was over, Toronto designated hitter Kendrys Morales had hit three home runs and collected seven RBIs. His last dinger came in the eighth inning, after which the Orioles rallied in the bottom of the frame to pull within three.

But then Jones grounded out with two runners on, ending the comeback attempt.

After the game, manager Buck Showalter expressed appreciation for the team's performance in August. So did shortstop Tim Beckham, who has been an offensive spark plug since joining the team via trade July 31.

Hellickson, though, was left to sit with a performance, and a fifth inning, he'd like to have back.

"I got to get us out of that inning," he said. "And get us back in the dugout."

Joshua Needelman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Orioles on Thursday.

Baltimore Orioles, Jeremy Hellickson