BALTIMORE (AP)—With the tying run on second base, Luis Hernandez would have been delighted with a single.
Starting at shortstop for Miguel Tejada, the light-hitting rookie is best known for his play in the field. On this night, however, he played the role of slugger.
Hernandez hit his first major league homer in the sixth inning to give Baltimore the lead, and the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5 on Thursday night to avoid a three-game sweep.
Toronto led 5-4 before Hernandez hit a two-run drive off Brian Tallet (2-4). It was his 14th home run in six professional seasons and first in 62 big league at-bats.
“I just tried to hit the ball hard so he can score from second, and I hit the ball very good,” Hernandez said. “But I never thought it would go that far.”
Tejada added a run-scoring grounder in the seventh, and House led off the eighth with his second big league home run. But no hit was more important than the one by Hernandez, who smiled broadly upon being presented the home-run ball at his locker.
“It was good for him and good for the team,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “It was a big hit in the game. It changed the momentum back in our favor. We’ve seen just about everything these last 35 or 40 games, so it was nice to get something favorable to look at.”
John-Ford Griffin had two RBIs and scored twice for the Blue Jays, whose three-game winning streak ended.
“We were down early but battled back, then coughed it up,” lamented Toronto manager John Gibbons.
Blue Jays starter Josh Banks, who grew up in the Baltimore area and had his own cheering section at Camden Yards, gave up five runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in his first major league start.
“First start, it was all right. I left a couple balls up,” Banks said. “But all I can do is build off of it, and hopefully I’ll get another chance to start down the road.”
Gibbons liked what he saw.
“He’s a very composed kid. He can throw strikes,” the manager said. “He just has to learn the hitters a little bit. He had a nice, solid year down at Triple-A for a team that wasn’t very good. But he handled himself very well out there.”
Pitching for the first time since Sept. 9 after being sidelined with a strained muscle in his rib cage, Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed three runs and six hits in five gritty innings. The rookie left with a one-run lead, but was not involved in the decision.
“It was very satisfying to be out there,” he said. “I enjoy pitching. It’s just nice to end the season pitching healthy versus having to walk off the field with an injury.”
Guthrie went 0-2 over his last nine starts and finished 7-5 with a 3.70 ERA.
The Blue Jays didn’t get a runner past first base until the fifth inning, when they batted around and closed to 4-3. Griffin doubled in a run, Curtis Thigpen hit an RBI single and Ray Olmedo hit a run-scoring grounder.
Baltimore’s lead vanished in the sixth. Aaron Hill greeted Hoey with a double, took third on a grounder and scored when Payton, anticipating a play at the plate on Hill, dropped a sinking liner to left by Griffin. Payton was given an error and Griffin was credited with a sacrifice fly.
Griffin took second on a single, moved up on a passed ball and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
But the Blue Jays gave away the lead, just as the Orioles did after going up 4-0 in the third.
Payton made it 2-0 in the second inning with a drive to left after Aubrey Huff hit a leadoff double. It was Payton’s sixth homer of the season, the first since July 18.
Melvin Mora hit a sacrifice fly and Payton hit a run-scoring single in the third.
Hill extended his hitting streak to 13 games, tying his career high. … Baltimore improved to 33-36 against AL East teams.