TORONTO (AP) — Facing first-place Baltimore in the opener of a key series, the Blue Jays didn’t have long to enjoy Brett Lawrie’s return to the lineup.
Baltimore hit three solo homers and Lawrie left with tightness in his lower back as the Orioles beat Toronto 9-3 Tuesday, handing the slumping Blue Jays their fourth straight defeat.
“We just got beaten around today,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They came in an outplayed us.”
Toronto activated Lawrie off the 15-day disabled list before the game and placed infielder Steve Tolleson on the paternity list. Lawrie said he felt “grabbing” in his back during batting practice and the pain didn’t go away once the game began. He’ll undergo an MRI Wednesday.
“This is my first game back,” Lawrie said. “I really don’t want to make (the injury) permanent.”
Chris Davis connected and Caleb Joseph and Jonathan Schoop went deep back to back as the Orioles overtook Toronto for the major league lead in home runs and extended their lead atop the AL East to five games over Toronto. The Orioles have hit 136 homers this season, one more than the Blue Jays.
“A big statement game for us here the first game of the series,” said right-hander Bud Norris, who pitched 5 1-3 innings to win for the first time in three starts.
Davis, Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy all had two RBIs and the Orioles won their third straight game, each in a different city. Baltimore beat Seattle at home Sunday and won at Washington Monday in a makeup game.
Norris (9-7) allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings as the Orioles won their 34 road game, matching the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in the majors. Baltimore is 19-8 away from home since May 31.
Toronto starter Mark Buehrle (11-8) lost for the seventh time in 11 starts, allowing four runs and 10 hits in four innings. He walked three and struck out three.
“They just hit him around pretty good,” Gibbons said.
After stranding five runners over the first two innings against Buehrle, Baltimore opened the scoring on Hardy’s RBI double in the third.
Joseph led off the fourth with his third home run in three games and Schoop followed with a drive to left. It’s the fourth time this season the Orioles have hit back-to-back homers, and the first time Davis wasn’t involved.
Toronto’s Colby Rasmus replied with a two-run drive in the bottom half, but Davis made it 6-2 with a one-out homer off Toronto rookie Aaron Sanchez in the fifth.
Blue Jays: Gibbons said first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (strained right quadriceps) has resumed hitting and will try running again in a few days. Encarnacion has been out since July 6 and was recently shut down after suffering a setback in his rehab.
Orioles: Right-hander Dylan Bundy struck out seven and walked none in 4 1-3 shutout innings at Class-A Frederick. Bundy, who had Tommy John surgery in June, 2013, allowed five hits.
Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will look to extend his streak of success away from home when he faces struggling Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison on Wednesday. Chen is 6-1 with a 3.93 ERA in nine road starts, while Hutchison has won just once in five starts and has seen his ERA rise from 3.81 to 4.62 over that span.
BIG SERIES FOR THE BIRDS
This marks the latest point in the season that the Orioles and Blue Jays have met as the top two teams in the AL East since Aug. 10, 1992. Toronto beat Baltimore for the AL East title in a season-ending series in 1989.
MELKY MAKES GOOD
Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, whose 10-game hit streak was snapped Sunday, went 2 for 4 with two singles and a walk. Cabrera has at least one hit in 16 of his past 19 games and is batting .373 (28 for 75) over that stretch.
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