Chen falls short of 17th victory in loss to Jays
Three errors prove costly, as Baltimore drops its third straight game
TORONTO -- The Orioles aren't playing their best brand of baseball heading into the postseason, and poor defensive play is perhaps the biggest culprit behind it.
Baltimore made three errors and was held to four hits, losing its third consecutive game, 4-2, to the Blue Jays in front of 37,996 at Rogers Centre on Saturday.
"It stinks that we're playing this bad," said Steve Pearce, who doubled in the loss. "But we've got to stay healthy -- and I feel like, right now, that's the most important thing."
It marked the fifth time this season the Orioles have committed three errors in a game, and three of those games have come in their last nine contests.
Baltimore is without Manny Machado and Matt Wieters -- both considered strong fielders -- as well as suspended slugger Chris Davis, but is still regarded highly for its play on the defensive side. The Orioles don't believe this recent stretch is anything more than a mirage.
"We are known for our defense," Pearce said. "We have been playing sloppy defense, but it happens. We would rather get it out of the way now than in the postseason."
The errors cost Baltimore a pair of unearned runs, and its offense was unable to make up for the mistakes.
Wei-Yin Chen, making his final start of the season, allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over six innings. The lefty punched out three and was lifted after 79 pitches, part of manager Buck Showalter's plan to ease the workload of his starters as his club heads into the postseason.
Chen surrendered three consecutive hits in the third inning, which resulted in two Toronto runs, before the Blue Jays plated another one against him in the fifth. The 29-year-old finished his season with a 16-6 record and career-best 3.54 ERA over 185 2/3 innings.
After struggling over the first couple of months this season, Chen said he made some mechanical changes that he believes helped him finish out strong. The loss was just his fourth over his last 25 starts and the fifth consecutive outing in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer.
While Chen was pleased about recording career highs in wins and ERA, he said others deserve praise for the achievements, too.
"Wins [are not] only about the pitchers, [they're about] the team," said Chen. "The team has to score runs, the pitcher has to do well -- and the defense has to do well to get a win. I think 16 wins are a team effort."
Adam Jones cut into a two-run Blue Jays lead in the sixth by crushing a solo homer -- his 29th dinger of the season -- to left field off Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, making it a 3-2 game. Jones is one homer shy of his third straight 30-plus home-run season.
The blast was Jones' 16th against Toronto since 2012 -- the second-most against the Blue Jays over that period, behind teammate Chris Davis' 21. Jones' 25 career homers against Toronto is his most against any team.
Happ was lifted in favor of right-hander Aaron Sanchez after issuing a one-out walk in the seventh. The lefty threw 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, as he walked two and struck out four in his final start of the year. Happ finished the season with a 4.22 ERA, his lowest mark since splitting time with the Phillies and Astros in 2010.
"I feel like I've showed -- over the second half especially -- when healthy, I'm able to make adjustments," Happ said. "That's the biggest part of the game, I think, is constantly trying to be comfortable and make the adjustments that the hitters are making to you."
The Blue Jays added some insurance in the seventh. Jose Reyes hit a sacrifice fly to center off Brad Brach to score Kevin Pillar, who reached on an error, putting Toronto ahead, 4-2. Pillar was originally called out at the plate after Jones threw a laser to catcher Caleb Joseph. But Toronto benefited from a crew-chief review that overturned the call.
Baltimore got on the board first, cashing one in during the second inning on an RBI single by Delmon Young to take a 1-0 advantage. Young plated Nelson Cruz, who knocked a triple off the wall in center field -- just out of the reach of a jumping Dalton Pompey -- to lead off the inning.
The Orioles will go for win No. 96 and look to snap their skid when right-hander Miguel Gonzalez opposes knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in Sunday's season finale.
"It would be nice to get some momentum going into the postseason," Pearce said. "But we know what we can do, we aren't pressing right now. We are going to try to win, we are not going to go out there and just throw our gloves out there."