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Blue Jays squander lead in crucial game against Orioles

Baltimore Orioles' Hyun Soo Kim, right, is congratulated by teammate Manny Machado on his two-run homer against the Jays during ninth inning on Wednesday.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Scoreboard watching to see how the competition is faring is about as far as John Gibbons will go these days when it comes to trying to sort through the complexities of what it will take to snag a playoff berth.

"Just win, baby," the plain-spoken Blue Jays manager has uttered more than once when asked what it will take for Toronto to punch its second consecutive ticket into the postseason. Don't bother Gibbons with any complicated formulas worthy of a calculator in order to figure out all the American League wild-card odds this late in the season.

"I can't get caught up in that," Gibbons said. "I mean, we're getting close and we've got to win some more games. There's some different things, who can do what.

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"I'm sure somebody will come tell me when they juggle the number and, hey, this is a big night."

That tap on the shoulder might have to wait a day or two, as the Orioles clawed their way back to earn a tension-filled 3-2 victory over the Toronto at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, moving to just one game of Toronto's tenuous hold on the first wild-card seed.

The two teams square off in the critical rubber of the three-game series Thursday night.

"I told you guys all along since I've been with this group, that's what they do (bounce back)," Gibbons said after the game. "They're resilient.

"It was a hell of two good teams battling. It came down to the end with a big home run there."

It was a gut-wrenching setback for the Blue Jays, who carried a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning only to see the bullpen cough it up.

It started with Jason Grilli, who surrendered a home run in his second straight appearance, to Mark Trumbo in the eighth inning.

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Trumbo's blast, his 46th, halved Toronto's lead to 2-1.

Toronto squandered a great opportunity to pad its lead in their half of the eighth when Melvin Upton Jr. struck out looking with the bases loaded.

Toronto closer Roberto Osuna came on in the top of the ninth to shut down the Orioles, but for the second time in three outings he could not get the job done.

Osuna allowed a one out single to Jonathan Schoop before pinch hitter Hyun-soo Kim stepped into the batter's box and planted a 3-2 Osuna offering into the right-field seats that provided the Orioles with their margin of victory.

The Blue Jays wasted a solid performance from starter Francisco Liriano.

Liriano was fabulous, blanking one of baseball's most fearsome lineups over 61/3 innings where he allowed six hits while striking out 10 and departing with a 2-0 lead.

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At the start of play of Wednesday, the Blue Jays required a win against the Orioles combined with a Cleveland triumph over the Tigers in Detroit – a rain-delayed contest – that would have pared their clinching number down to one to qualify for the wild card.

But the Orioles, despite a rough start by 16-game winner Chris Tillman, were not about to wave the white flag.

For the second consecutive night, the Blue jays were without spark-plug second baseman Devon Travis, who injured his shoulder getting jostled during Monday's bench-clearing brouhaha against the New York Yankees.

Toronto's leadoff batter and the team's leading hitter with a .299 batting average, Gibbons said Travis is feeling better but said his return to the lineup remains day-to-day.

The Orioles were their own worst enemy at the outset of the game as Tillman committed two errors in the first inning that resulted in a 1-0 Toronto lead.

First, Tillman made a throwing error to first base in a failed attempt to throw out Ezequiel Carrera, the Toronto leadoff hitter who continues to brandish a hot bat.

Carrera motored all the way to third when Tillman's errant pickoff attempt at first rolled deep into foul territory down the rightfield line.

Carrera scored on a sacrifice fly by Edwin Encarnacion.

In the second, Toronto made it 2-0 when Kevin Pillar poked a sacrifice fly to right that scored the tagging Troy Tulowitzki from third base.

Tillman would last 52/3 innings, getting tagged for both runs (just one earned) off six hits while walking three and striking out two.

Liriano, meanwhile, was precise in his location and had totalled nine strikeouts by the time five innings had elapsed.

His biggest by far came in the fifth inning with the bases loaded when he froze Chris Davis with a beautiful 79 mile-an-hour slider that went for a called third strike to take the Orioles out of the inning.

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