Orioles 7, Blue Jays 3

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BALTIMORE (AP)—The Baltimore Orioles won four straight games only once last year—in August. They’ve done it twice already in April, fueling optimism in the clubhouse that this team just might make some noise in the talent-laden AL East.

Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada each had three RBIs, and the Orioles beat Toronto 7-3 Sunday to complete their first three-game home sweep of the Blue Jays in 13 years.

Steve Trachsel (1-1) allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings to earn his first victory with the Orioles, who have won eight of nine. Baltimore is 11-4 since opening the season with three consecutive losses in Minnesota.

“We’re pitching right now, catching the ball and getting timely hitting,” said Kevin Millar, who’s sporting a .414 on-base percentage. “We haven’t solved the world’s problems yet, but we’re playing good baseball.”

Jay Payton contributed three hits and scored twice in his first start with Baltimore. He spent the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

“Everybody said from the beginning that if we play the kind of baseball we’re capable of, we’ve got the pieces in here to be successful,” Payton said. “There’s no reason we can’t continue to win.”

Manager Sam Perlozzo said, “We’ve got to win as many we can and ride it as long as we can. So far, everything seems to be clicking for us right now.”

Against Oakland on Monday, the Orioles will be seeking their first five-game winning streak since an eight-game run from April 22 to May 1, 2005.

“We’ve got to win as many we can and ride it as long as we can,” Perlozzo said. “You know you’re going to run into some rough spots, so if we can just stretch it out, all the better.”

Aaron Hill homered for the Blue Jays, who have lost five straight. Toronto was outscored 17-9 in its first three-game sweep at Baltimore since May 9-11, 1994.

“They’re playing real good over there and we’re not right now,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’re built to slug and that’s not happening right now. That will happen.”

Next up for Toronto: A two-game series in Boston against the AL East-leading Red Sox.

“I’m not so sure it’s great to go where we’re heading,” Gibbons said, “but it’s good to get out of here.”

Signed as a free agent in February to replace injured Kris Benson in the starting rotation, Trachsel finally won with Baltimore in his fourth start.

“The first is usually the hardest,” he said, “so I’ll take it. It feels good.”

Trachsel gave up four hits, struck out three and walked four. After he left with two on and one out in the sixth, Chad Bradford entered and got Hill to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

Alex Rios hit a two-run single in the ninth off Orioles rookie Brian Burres. They were the only runs allowed by Baltimore relievers during the three-game series.

“That’s the difference this year: Our bullpen has been a lot stronger this year than in the past,” Millar said.

After going down in order against Gustavo Chacin (2-1) in the first three innings, Baltimore took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Payton led off with a single, Melvin Mora walked and Markakis hit a triple off the top of the wall in center. Tejada followed with an RBI single.

The Orioles pulled away with a four-run fifth. Payton hit a one-out single and Mora walked before Markakis doubled in a run. Tejada then greeted Victor Zambrano with a two-run single, and Corey Patterson added an RBI single.

Chacin, the last Toronto pitcher to earn a victory, yielded six runs in 4 1-3 innings. His ERA swelled from 3.57 to 5.32.

Hill’s third homer of the season put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the second inning. In his next at-bat, Hill struck out in the fourth with runners on second and third and two outs.

“We’re just not doing what we’re capable of doing right now. It’s definitely not fun for us,” Hill said. “Maybe we’re pressing too hard because we know we’re a better team.

“We’re not getting the big hits in key moments, we’re not capitalizing on certain situations,” he added. “We’re really not doing much of anything right now.”

Notes

Payton batted leadoff in place of 2B Brian Roberts, who missed a second straight game with the flu. … Toronto DH Frank Thomas was dropped from the cleanup spot to fifth. He entered with a .197 batting average before going 2-for-4. … Alberto Castillo made two outs in Baltimore’s four-run fifth.

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