BALTIMORE (AP) — Aaron Sanchez is playing a vital role in Toronto’s march to the postseason.
Nonetheless, the organization has made the extra effort to keep their young pitcher fresh. Sanchez took full advantage of that strategy with another dominant performance Wednesday night.
Jose Bautista homered on the game’s first pitch and Russell Martin went deep four batters later in support of Sanchez, leading the Blue Jays to a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Toronto took two of the three games in the pivotal American League East series. The fading Orioles are four games behind the first-place Blue Jays and are tied with Detroit for the second wild card spot.
“It’s never easy when you play these guys,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “This time of year, I mean this is a team we’re locked in it with. It’s always big to beat them.”
Sanchez (13-2) was recalled from Class-A Dunedin to make the start. He spent 10 days in the minors to limit his innings and he took advantage of the extra rest. Sanchez allowed an unearned run and five hits with two strikeouts over six innings and a season-high 112 pitches.
“I felt like my body had been bouncing back pretty well all year,” Sanchez said. “I think it was just one of those things where it had to be done. I went down to Florida and I took it very serious. My season is not done and I knew that so it was go down there, get work in, understand what I’m trying to accomplish and come back in a big game.”
Michael Saunders hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the eighth that made it 5-1.
Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop had three hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth off Roberto Osuna, his 21st.
The game was delayed for about 15 minutes when home plate umpire Jerry Layne was hit in the mask on a pitch by Sanchez. Layne had to leave and was replaced by second base umpire Alan Porter.
After Bautista drilled Yovani Gallardo’s first pitch over the wall in center field, Martin followed with a two-run shot. The Orioles pulled within 3-1 in the fifth when third baseman Josh Donaldson couldn’t handle a sharp grounder by Manny Machado.
“I feel like I’m still seeing the ball well,” said Martin, who had nine homers and 22 RBIs in August. “Sometimes you get a mistake and you hit it and sometimes the pitcher makes pitches and you get out. For the most part, I just feel like I’m having good at-bats.”
After allowing the two homers, Gallardo (4-7) settled down and retired the final 10 batters he faced. He allowed three runs and five hits with three strikeouts over six innings.
“He pitched well I thought for the most part,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He gave us a chance to win. Really, he got better as the game went on.”
A double by Devon Travis off Mychal Givens in the seventh increased the lead to 4-1.
Bautista’s leadoff homer was his fourth this season and eighth of his career.
Blue Jays: RHP Bo Schultz was optioned to Buffalo to make room for Sanchez.
Orioles: OF Drew Stubbs was claimed off release waivers from Texas. To make room, Baltimore cut Kyle Lobstein just two hours after getting the left-handed pitcher in a trade with Pittsburgh. … The Orioles acquired another outfielder, Michael Bourn, from the Diamondbacks for minor league outfielder Jason Heinrich.
Blue Jays: INF Darwin Barney was placed on the Family Medical Emergency List. Gibbons did not disclose further details. INF Ryan Goins was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo.
Orioles: RHP Darren O’Day (right shoulder rotator cuff strain) is “progressing well” but there is still no timetable for his return to the bullpen, Showalter said.
Blue Jays: Gibbons has not named a starter for the game Friday in Tampa Bay.
Orioles: Dylan Bundy (7-5. 3.71 ERA) pitches the series opener against the New York Yankees on Friday in another battle of playoff contenders. Bundy has struggled in three appearances against New York this season, going 0-1 with 9.39 ERA over three appearances (8 runs in 7 2/3 innings).