TORONTO -- Even with Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup for the third straight game, the Blue Jays' offense continued to sputter in Sunday's rubber match vs. the Orioles.
Despite having 10 hits and runners on base all afternoon, the key hit remained elusive against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez and the Orioles bullpen as the Blue Jays fell, 3-1, at Rogers Centre.
"We had our hits, we just couldn't get that big one," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose club went hitless in nine opportunities with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. "That's a key. They got out of some jams."
Throughout the game, there were plenty of chances for the club to score, especially after Baltimore took the lead in the third. For four straight innings starting in the fourth, the Blue Jays had two men on base and failed to capitalize on any of those opportunities.
Two of the most glaring chances came in the fifth and seventh innings. In the fifth frame, the Blue Jays had two runners on with their most dangerous hitter at the plate in Encarnacion. However, the Toronto slugger flied out to the warning track in right field to end the threat.
In the seventh, the Blue Jays loaded the bases for Moises Sierra. The 24-year-old outfielder has four multihit games in his past six, including Sunday, going 11-for-21 in those games, but he struck out swinging on four pitches from Tommy Hunter, squandering the club's last real opportunity to score.
The Blue Jays' lone run came off the bat of Adam Lind in the second inning against Gonzalez. Lind drilled his second home run of the series, a line drive into the second deck in right field, to give the Blue Jays the early lead.
"I took all the balls and swung at the strikes. I was sitting there long enough and finally got a good pitch to hit and I didn't miss it," Lind said of his 21st home run.
That marked the high point for the club's offense that was held in check the rest of the way in what would become a series of missed opportunities against the Orioles' staff.
The lack of offense meant starter Mark Buehrle was saddled with the loss, dropping his record to 11-9. For the second straight outing, Buehrle lacked the magic that he had over nearly a two-month span dating back to July 25th, when he sported a 2.02 ERA over nine starts.
Though he wasn't as sharp as he has been, the veteran left-hander did more than his fair share, limiting the Orioles to three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks over five innings while striking out four. Despite finding himself in trouble, Buehrle was able to tightrope out of a pair of tough jams to keep his club within striking distance.
"It was a battle for him today, but he has that knack of hanging around and surviving and keeping you in the game, and he did that today," Gibbons said. "He had a rough one his last time out, but he kept the game in check right there without his best stuff. The guys that survive the game for a long time and have a lot of success ... they figure it out [without their best stuff], they have guts, they will themselves to win, and get some big outs. Everybody can't do that, but he's one of the guys that can."
The toughest of those jams came in the fourth inning. After a hit, an error and a walk, the Orioles had the bases loaded with just one away. Buehrle would eventually walk Chris Davis to put the Blue Jays down by two, but he was able to escape without further damage thanks to a nice play by Ryan Goins. Adam Jones hit a grounder in the hole between first and second and Goins ranged well to his right and made a diving stop, then threw from his knees to get Jones.
"I got to do a better job of not walking a guy with the bases loaded," Buehrle said. "But at the same time, I know what Chris Davis can do, so I don't really want to give in right there. A walk is better than a home run [in that situation].
"Overall it wasn't the best day, but it was all right."
The most damage off of Buehrle came from a Danny Valencia double into the corner in left field in the third inning, scoring two and putting the Orioles ahead for good.
"He's had a big month, a big contributor," Hunter said of Valencia. "Hopefully he keeps it up. It might be a different guy every night, and he's been pretty clutch for a couple games. I like having him on our team right now. He's swinging the bat well and hopefully he keeps it up."
With the loss, the Blue Jays have now lost five of six and will be officially eliminated from the playoffs before their next game on Tuesday if both the Rays and Rangers win a game.