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Lead vanishes as Jays' slide hits eight

Lead vanishes as slide hits eight

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BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays took a two-run lead in the second inning Tuesday night against the Orioles. But that's where the problems began.

Toronto left a runner on third in the second and again put runners in scoring position in the third. After that, they loaded the bases in the fifth, put a runner on third in the seventh and two more on in the ninth. But the Jays could never come through with a clutch hit in any of those situations, and Baltimore bounced back with three key homers en route to a 7-2 victory over Toronto before 10,130 on a cold and rainy night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Blue Jays have now lost eight in a row with the same problem worsening in each -- they just haven't been getting hits in the clutch.

Toronto (27-22) had nine hits but went only 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The Blue Jays, who are hitting only .141 (10-for-71) with runners in scoring position during the losing streak, stranded 10 on this night and hit into two double plays.

"We had scoring chances the last eight games," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "We just haven't capitalized on them. It's pretty much been the same thing."

The Jays again did what most slumping teams do -- hit the ball hard, but right at people. That has happened a lot in the first two games of this series, and it started right away against Oriole starter Jason Berken (1-0), who was making his Major League debut.

Marco Scutaro, who had three hits, doubled to lead off the game and scored on an Adam Lind two-base hit with one out for a quick 1-0 lead. However, Berken struck out Vernon Wells and induced Kevin Millar to ground out to end the inning.

Scott Rolen walked to start the second and went to third on a Lyle Overbay single. Overbay went to second on the throw in, and the Jays appeared ready to break the game open. Rod Barajas then blooped a single to left, scoring Rolen and moving Overbay to third.

But Berken got Scutaro to hit into an inning-ending double play, holding the score at 2-0. Aubrey Huff hit a solo homer off Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero (2-1) in the bottom half, and the game slowly began to turn.

Berken worked out of trouble in the third and fifth, leaving the bases loaded in his final inning. The right-hander faced Rolen with two out, and the third baseman hit a shot -- but right at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, keeping the score at 2-1.

"We're just in a rut right now," Millar said. "Eventually it's going to turn around. We've just got to keep plugging along."

Jones turned the game around in the fifth, blasting a two-out, two-run homer off Romero to give the Orioles (20-26) the lead for good at 3-2. Romero had retired the first two batters before walking Brian Roberts. Jones followed with the homer, and the walk bothered Romero afterward.

"The momentum shifted towards them [after that]," Romero said.

Nolan Reimold added a two-run homer off Romero in the sixth for a 5-2 lead. Brian Roberts then broke it open with a two-run double off Scott Downs in the eighth.

Romero (2-1) was making his first start since April 19. The left-hander, who has been out with an oblique strain, gave up five runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Romero said that all three Orioles homers were on fastballs, two of which he left up, something he did not want to do.

"I just left fastballs up, and they made me pay for it," Romero said. "It's disappointing to come up short."

Still, the Blue Jays had chances to come back. They threatened in the seventh and ninth, but came up empty each time.

Millar said that the Jays are going through something that every team deals with. Gaston said that the only way to get out of slumps like this is to play your way through it.

And that's what Toronto will have to do, just keep playing.

"These times make you tougher," Millar said. "This is what the big leagues are all about. These times make you tougher, as miserable as they are."

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

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