Jays drop opener, skid reaches seven

Jays drop opener, skid reaches seven

BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays still had problems hitting in the clutch on Monday, a big reason their losing streak reached seven games. Although manager Cito Gaston remains puzzled by the sudden dry spell, don't expect him to come to the ballpark Tuesday and start shaking everything up.

Gaston said he wants his team to just keep working, and the skipper believes the Jays will eventually snap out of this funk. The troubles continued Monday as Toronto scored a quick run in the first and nothing after that as the Orioles pulled out a 4-1 victory before 24,904 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Toronto (27-21) put runners on base in every inning, but the Jays went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They left nine on base as Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie (4-4), plus relievers Danys Baez and George Sherrill, each worked out of trouble.

"We get nine hits, we leave nine people on base," Gaston said. "So we're just not hitting with guys in scoring position."

The lack of timely hits has been the major problem throughout the seven-game skid that has seen the Blue Jays fall from first to third place in the America League East.

Toronto now is hitting just .138 (8-for-58) with runners in scoring position during the slide. The Blue Jays have also stranded 40 runners in scoring position while dropping seven straight.

"Nothing much you can do," Gaston said. "You can juggle the lineup upside down if you want to. Some people [like to] switch the lineup around, but I'm not much for that. You've just got to keep grinding it out until something breaks, you catch a break or you make your own break."

Vernon Wells broke a 17-game streak without an RBI with his first-inning single. He drove in Marco Scutaro, who opened the game with a single to right. Aaron Hill then lined a shot right at shortstop Cesar Izturis for the first out, something Gaston said later could have changed the game because it would have given Toronto either a run or put two on and none out to set the table for the middle of the lineup.

Scutaro stole second with Wells up, and he then singled to left to make it 1-0. The Orioles (19-26) quickly tied it in the first with a run off starter Brian Tallet (2-3). The left-hander gave up an RBI single to Gregg Zaun in the fourth to give the Orioles the lead for good at 2-1.

Tallet again gave the Jays a strong start. He allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out five and walking two and said the offense will get back on track.

"You're going to run into slumps, it's just one of those times," Tallet said. "I started this skid in Boston, and I was trying to do everything I could to stop it and just wasn't able to."

The Orioles got two insurance runs in the seventh off former closer B.J. Ryan. Izturis reached on an infield single to start the inning and scored on a Brian Roberts triple. Ryan then walked Adam Jones, who moved to second on a wild pitch.

Nick Markakis flied to center, and Ryan intentionally walked Melvin Mora before Aubrey Huff hit a sacrifice fly to deep center for a 4-1 lead.

The Blue Jays had missed a good chance to score in the top of the seventh off Guthrie in the rain that started midway through the game. Lyle Overbay led off with a single and moved to second when Jose Bautista walked with one out. But Scutaro was called out on strikes, and Hill grounded into a force play.

The Jays put a runner on second in the eighth and ninth, but couldn't cash in. Overbay doubled to start the ninth, but Orioles closer George Sherrill retired the next three batters to close it out.

"We're definitely getting our hits," said designated hitter Adam Lind, who went 0-for-3. "It's something that I really don't know how to explain. But we'll battle through, it's a long season."

Gaston sat calmly in his office after the game, saying again that he's not going to make a million changes. He believes in this team and will give it time to get everything right once more.

"We just have to keep playing," Gaston said. "You never know in this game what is going to happen. All you can do is show up every day and play and hope that you can get out of it."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.