Baltimore takes rare win in Toronto

Baltimore Orioles base runner Nolan Reimold scores a run under the tag by Toronto Blue Jays catcher...

Baltimore Orioles base runner Nolan Reimold scores a run under the tag by Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia as umpire Bob Davidson follows the play during the ninth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto June 16, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

TORONTO - It was the kind of start Kyle Drabek could only dream about.

Unfortunately for young Drabek, he is now in Las Vegas and the start in question was turned in Thursday afternoon by his good friend and replacement, Zach Stewart.

The difference between how Drabek performed of late and Stewart, who was making his major league debut, was night and day, black and white.

While Drabek, in his 14 starts, fought his control and his emotions — and most days lost the battle — Stewart was in complete control of both.

The first inning showed he may be up to something special, the nerves were in check, as it took all of 12 pitches, three up, three down, the final two Orioles striking out.

Any new pitcher, a guy making his major-league debut, has the advantage in that the hitters don’t know his stuff, how it moves, have never seen his pitches. So how a pitcher fares in his second and third time through the lineup is far more revealing. That and how he handles stressful situations.

On each count, Stewart passed the test.

The only aspect missing from Stewart’s debut was a happy ending — and we don’t mean the Jack Layton kind.

Stewart was gone after seven innings, the game knotted 2-2.

It lasted that way until the ninth when Baltimore pushed two runs across to emerge with a 4-3 victory to finally put an end to their hideous 16-game losing streak at Rogers Centre.

The Jays, down 4-2, attempted a comeback as Adam Lind opened the bottom of the ninth and raised the hopes of the 31,822 in attendance by crashing a moon shot off the right-field foul pole for his 14th home run of the season. But that was as close as the Jays would get and they now embark on a 10-game road trip, the opening nine games being National League stops.

Getting back to Stewart, who allowed the two runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out four, he was the subject of nothing but praise from manager John Farrell.

“I thought Zach threw the ball very well for his debut,” Farrell began. “He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, (showed) a lot of composure on the mound, pitched ahead the majority of the afternoon and got a key double play in the seventh inning to finish off that inning.

“The fact that he went seven innings in his first start is an outstanding day for him.”

Stewart retired the first six batters he faced and then weathered a five-batter third without allowing a run.

He walked the first batter, then came back with a double play grounder before a single and double had runners at second and third. But he came back to induce Nick Markakis to ground out to second to end the threat.

Stewart didn’t allow a run through five, but J.J. Hardy opened up the sixth with a solo shot to left. A one-out RBI double by Vladimir Guerrero drove in Baltimore’s second run.

But that’s where Stewart stopped it as he retired the next two batters to limit the damage.

“He was outstanding,” Farrell said of Stewart’s composure. “Even after he clipped (Mark) Reynolds at the start of the seventh, to come back and get a double play ball, I thought that was the biggest point in the game where he did show composure.”

What impressed Farrell the most?

“He didn’t fear contact,” was the reply.

It’s a big jump from double-A, but Stewart never backed off.

“They obviously hit mistakes and are here for a reason so you obviously can’t mess up too much,” Stewart said of the difference between double-A and major league hitters. “I feel there are good hitters at every level but these guys, when you make a mistake, they get on it pretty well.”

DH blues

The turning point offensively for the Jays came in the sixth when with the game tied 2-2, the bases loaded and one out, DH Edwin Encarnacion ground into an inning-ending double play. It was predictable.

Due to the fact that he is a defensive liability, Encarnacion gets into the lineup as the DH only on days when Lind is at first.

The next nine games the Jays are playing in National League parks meaning no DH and probably no starts by Encarnacion. He will, however, see pinch-hitting duties.

Encarnacion’s problem this season is that he supplies little in the way of production. In 179 at-bats, he has driven in just 12 runs, the lowest total of all the regulars in the lineup. The 12 RBIs ties him with Travis Snider who was demoted to Las Vegas on April 29.

In his past 24 games, Encarnacion has driven in just three runs in 77 at-bats.

If you are the DH and can’t drive in runs, what good are you?

In Encarnacion’s case, not much.


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