8-run first inning carries Toronto to 8-5 win over Orioles

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BALTIMORE (AP)—The trouble for Victor Zambrano began on the very first pitch of the game, a misguided missile that hit Reed Johnson in the rear end.

“The ball went from my hands. I was trying to start the game with a fastball in and the ball was running too much,” Zambrano said.

Soon after that, the Blue Jays were running around the bases at a record-breaking pace.

Matt Stairs and Adam Lind each had two RBIs in the most prolific first inning in Toronto Blue Jays history, an eight-run outburst that launched an 8-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

The Blue Jays sent 13 players to the plate in the first. They got six hits— all of them singles, including two by Alex Rios. There were also three walks and a hit batter.

The Orioles knew they were in trouble when Zambrano (0-3) plunked Johnson.

“The first pitch of the game he hit the guy, and it wasn’t much better after that,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

A walk to Stairs and a single by Rios loaded the bases for Frank Thomas, who hit a sacrifice fly to left that Jay Payton caught with a leap at the wall. After Aaron Hill singled to fill the bases, Gregg Zaun walked to force in a run.

Lind singled in two runs, Russ Adams hit into a fielder’s choice, John McDonald walked and Johnson got an infield hit to score Zaun and chase Zambrano. Stairs then hit a two-run single off Kurt Birkins and Rios singled in a run before Thomas hit a grounder to end it.

That made it easy for Toronto starter Roy Halladay (16-7) to match his win total from last year. The right-hander gave up five runs, three earned, and 11 hits in 7-plus innings.

“It’s perfect. To get out there and be able to pitch with that kind of lead, it’s nice,” said Halladay, who threw 115 pitches on a hot, humid night.

“You start to buy into the global warming, as hot as it was,” he said. “It’s nice on a day like that to have that kind of cushion early on.”

Jeremy Accardo worked the ninth for his 29th save.

Toronto’s best first inning had been seven runs. It was done four times previously, the last time on June 4, 1995, at Cleveland.

Sadly for the Orioles, it was a familiar occurrence. Over their last 35 games, they have given up at least eight runs in an inning five times.

The victory assured the Blue Jays (81-77) at least a .500 season. By winning the first two games of the three-game series by a combined 19-9 score, Toronto improved to 10-7 against Baltimore to clinch the season series for a third straight year.

Nick Markakis tied a career-high with four hits and Tike Redman drove in two runs for the Orioles, who have lost 26 of 35.

Baltimore scored three runs in the sixth, two after Adams threw wildly to first base on a two-out grounder to third. Payton singled in a run to chase Halladay in the eighth, and Redman followed with a sacrifice fly.

“Tonight was an example of playing the game with pride and for pride, because after the first inning everybody could have cashed it in,” Trembley said. “We didn’t do that. We really hung together as a team and had some quality at-bats.”

Notes

Hill went 3-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games, one short of his career high. … Baltimore has lost six straight home series. … Birkins had a career-high six strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings.

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