Sloppy defence, poor pitching plagues struggling Blue Jays as Orioles claim series opener

The Baltimore Orioles cashed in three runs thanks to sloppy defence and poor pitching from the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth inning to take the series opener 7-3 on Monday.

The victory was the ninth in 13 games for the Orioles (60-55), while the Blue Jays (61-53) continued to stumble with two wins in nine outings.

Toronto fell behind 3-0 but rallied for two runs in the third inning thanks to a two-run single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. before 26,769 at Rogers Centre.

Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi (4-7) struck out Austin Hays to begin the fourth. But the next batter, Jorge Mateo, reached base on a Bo Bichette throwing error.

Mateo moved to second when Baltimore’s Terrin Vavra walked and advanced to third after Kikuchi’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt at second base.

A hard smash to Bichette knocked the Blue Jays’ shortstop off balance, and his throw home to get Mateo was late.

A Ryan McKenna double to the gap in left centre scored two more for a four-run Orioles lead.

An Anthony Santander RBI single in the first frame and a two-run second-deck blast from Ryan Mountcastle in the third inning gave the Orioles an early lead.

Baltimore scored another in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Vavra. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who saw his 22-game hit streak end on Sunday, countered with his team-leading 24th homer with one out in the fifth.

Kikuchi was good for only 3 1/3 innings, giving up six runs (three unearned) on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

George Springer returned to the Blue Jays’ lineup after 10 days on the disabled list with a right elbow injury. He was the designated hitter, going 2-for-5 with a double down the left-field line in the third inning, an infield hit in the seventh and a walk in the ninth.

With the return of Springer to his leadoff spot, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. moved from first to third in the batting order.

Gurriel had another two hits. He has reached base safely in 38 of 44 games, going 61-for-171 (. 357) for the best average in the majors since the beginning of June.

Gurriel’s .310 batting average is third in the American League behind Minnesota’s Luis Arraez (. 333) and Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez (. 312).

The Blue Jays designated outfielder Bradley Zimmer for assignment to make room for Springer.

Baltimore starter Kyle Bradish went 4 2/3 innings, yielding three runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts. Reliever Bryan Baker (4-3) was awarded the win.

Interim Toronto manager John Schneider confirmed the Blue Jays are close to signing Yoshi Tsutsugo to a minor-league deal. The outfielder/first baseman was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates last week.

Blue Jays’ ace Alek Manoah (12-5) will face righty Dean Kremer (4-4) in the second game of the three-game series against Baltimore on Tuesday. Manoah is 1-0 in two starts with a no-decision against the Orioles in 2022, and 2-0 in five career starts.

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