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Blue Jays rookies put on a show in loss to Orioles

Blue Jays shortstop Richard Urena throws to first base to complete a double play against the Orioles on Sept. 13, 2017.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and not too much weight should be placed on the solid September showings of Toronto Blue Jays rookies Teoscar Hernandez and Richard Urena.

Still, there is nothing wrong with providing a little eye candy for manager John Gibbons over the final month of the season. First impressions can go a long way when it comes to future roster decisions.

And as the Blue Jays' season chugs toward its inglorious conclusion you know there is going to be a healthy infusion of new, younger talent next year.

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So what to make of Hernandez and Urena, who carted a combined .318 batting average into Wednesday night's finale against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre, with five doubles, three home runs and 10 runs batted in since the beginning of the month?

"Well, it's a lot better than them going out there and struggling," Gibbons offered before the game.

The Orioles, who entered the game mired in a six-game losing skid that dropped them 4 1/2 games back in the American League wild-card playoff race, beat the Blue Jays 2-1 to avoid being swept.

Urena, who had never played above the Double-A level, made his eighth consecutive start at shortstop on Wednesday night while Hernandez, who was called up from Triple A on Sept. 1, was getting his ninth start in the outfield, this time in left.

While many teams at this stage of the season are running out the string, Gibbons noted that most of Toronto's games this month have been against teams in serious playoff contention.

So the two rookies have not exactly been padding their stats against scrubs.

"September is a different month," Gibbons said. "The way I look at it, you take away that series against Detroit, the other teams [Boston and Baltimore] are in it so they're running their top [lineups] out there. They're not experimenting. They're not throwing minor-league pitchers or things like that."

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While the true test of new players is to evaluate them over a longer period, Gibbons said first impressions can be important.

"I've liked Richard [Urena] the last couple years in spring training," the manager said of the 21-year-old Dominican. "There's something about him."

He said the same thing about Hernandez, although he only joined the organization on the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the Francisco Liriano swap with the Houston Astros.

Hernandez displayed some youthful inexperience in the first inning on Wednesday when he took a rather curious route in left field toward a line drive from Adam Jones.

The ball sailed over his head and Jones went to second on a double, scoring Tim Beckham for a 1-0 Baltimore lead. Beckham got on board after a throwing error by Josh Donaldson.

Trey Mancini tripled off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman to bring the score to 2-0.

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Both Hernandez and Urena factored in Toronto's first run in the third inning with Hernandez starting it off with a leadoff double, his fourth since joining the big-league roster.

Hernandez was sacrificed to third base by Ryan Goins and then scored when Urena lifted a bloop hit into shallow left field that Mancini could not track down.

In the sixth inning, the Blue Jays dugout noticed Stroman grimacing after throwing a pitch to Chris Davis.

Two starts ago, Stroman was drilled in the right forearm on a Mark Trumo line drive so there was immediate concern and both Gibbons and a member of the Toronto training staff rushed out to the mound to check on their pitcher's condition.

Stroman would remain in the game but did not come out for the next inning.

"People forgot I got hit on a missile by Trumbo two starts ago so I'm still dealing with that," Stroman said. "And I threw six days after that so I'm still battling. Nothing I'm worried about, just felt a little tightness on one particular pitch but I felt fine the pitch after."

Stroman's record dipped to 11-8 after absorbing the loss. He gave up both Baltimore runs (none earned) off six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Stroman has now logged 184.1 innings pitched on the year and with three starts left is a good bet to surpass the 200-inning plateau for the second consecutive season, which is a source of pride.

"I think that part of being an ace is being able to go out there, give your team 200-plus innings every year," he said.  "It's getting harder and harder to do with all the analytics and statistics these days. So trying to do everything I can to get there."

Stroman said former Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle, who went 14 consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, something only four pitchers have ever accomplished at the major league level, was an inspiration to him.

"I don't think what Buehrle did will ever be done again," Stroman said. "Being able to go out there every fifth day and go deep in games, there's so much positive effects that comes from that – giving the bullpen rest.

"You don't realize how much that does over the course of a season. So that's definitely something I'll continue to pride myself on."

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