Drew Hutchison gave Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons just what he was looking for.
The Blue Jays pitcher pulled a masterful one-hit performance seemingly out of nowhere Wednesday night to halt the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 in front of 33,054 fans at the Rogers Centre. That snapped a four-game losing streak and evened the series with the American League East Division leaders at one game each with the rubber match Thursday night.
The Blue Jay offence contributed to the sense of the unusual by scoring all five of their runs through the first six innings with two outs. That kind of clutch hitting has also been a rare sight for Blue Jay fans over the last few months.
Before the game, Gibbons was fretting a little about his starting pitching. Veteran Mark Buehrle was rocked again Tuesday night in the series opener by the Orioles, extending the team's losing streak and his personal stretch of futility to seven losses in his last eight decisions going back to June 7.
If the Jays were to get back in the series let alone get back to making a serious run at the lead in the American League East, the starters had to get it together. "You need them all to be good; everybody to get on a little bit of a roll," Gibbons said when someone asked if Buehrle and fellow veteran R.A. Dickey needed to step up as an example to their younger colleagues.
"For a while there we were doing that," Gibbons said. "It's getting to that time of year. They're getting worn down."
When it came to stepping up, no one was looking at the 23-year-old Hutchison. He has had his moments this season but not many of late. Hutchison came into the game with just one decent start in his last five. In two of his last three starts, he never made it past the third inning.
But this time around, Hutchison was in command right from the start when he retired the Orioles in order in the first inning. His teammates returned the favour in short order by giving him a 2-0 lead to start the second inning, when Hutchison made his only big mistake of the game by serving up a solo home run to Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis after having him at 0-2 at one point.
After the Orioles got two outs in the first, the Blue Jays rapped out three consecutive base hits, from DH Nolan Reimold, catcher Dioner Navarro and first baseman Danny Valencia, to take a lead they never surrendered.
The biggest bat was wielded by right fielder Jose Bautista, who drove in three of those two-out five runs. He drilled a two-run homer in the second inning, his 22nd of the season, and doubled in third baseman Munenori Kawasaki in the sixth to put Toronto ahead 5-1.
By that time, Hutchison (8-9) was cruising and the Davis home run proved to be the only hit he allowed in eight and two-thirds innings. After Davis, Hutchison retired 22 consecutive Orioles through the ninth inning with eight strikeouts and just one walk.
When Hutchison struck out the first two batters in the ninth, the fans were on their feet and roaring for the final out. But he walked right fielder Nick Markikis, which brought out Gibbons, who was showered with boos for pulling Hutchison. Casey Janssen closed out the game by getting third baseman Manny Machado on a foul pop-up.
Evening the series with the Orioles at one game each was the kind of good news the Blue Jays needed, since once again there wasn't much on the injury front. Third baseman Brett Lawrie was held out of the game with back problems and while Gibbons is hopeful the injury is not serious, the results of a magnetic resonance imaging test Lawrie underwent Tuesday were not immediately available.