Richmond worked seven innings, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios backed him with home runs and the Toronto Blue Jays completed a three-game sweep by beating Baltimore 4-3 Sunday. The Orioles lost their sixth in a row.
Richmond (4-0) won his fourth straight start, allowing two earned runs and five hits in seven innings, matching a career high. He walked two and struck out six.
Just two years removed from pitching in the independent Northern League, Richmond’s consistency is making a big difference to the AL East-leading Blue Jays, whose rotation has been shredded by injuries to Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero and a poor April by David Purcey, who was demoted to Triple-A on Friday.
“Right now (Richmond) is pitching nowhere near like a No. 5 starter,” catcher Rod Barajas said. “He’s our No. 2 guy. He goes out there every single game and gives us an opportunity to win and he shuts teams down. We weren’t sure if we were going to have a No. 2 guy like that after Litsch went down. The way he’s stepped up, the way he’s pitched for us, it’s something that we desperately needed.”
Richmond, who lowered his ERA to 2.67, has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 10 major league starts, including five in 2008.
“I’m happy I’m contributing, I’m happy I’m pitching well,” Richmond said. “I’m so focused out there. We’re doing so great. These guys are hitting so well and playing unbelievable defense, I’ve got to do my job.”
Baltimore’s Luke Scott said Richmond didn’t give the Orioles a lot to swing at.
“As hitters, we make a living at hitting balls that are up in the zone, out over the plate and there wasn’t really that much today,” Scott said.
Toronto won its AL-high 18th game and matched the 18-9 start made by its 1992 World Series-winning team, the best in team history.
“It’s been great,” said Barajas, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI and has gone 10-for-17 in his past four games. “This is what we wanted, this is what we expected and we need to keep it going.”
The Orioles have lost 14 of 17 following a 6-2 start. Baltimore is 0-12 this season when scoring fewer than five runs, and the frustration has started to show. Orioles manager Dave Trembley was ejected in the fifth for arguing a called third strike on Aubrey Huff.
Trembley was asked whether he’d considered calling a team meeting to snap the Orioles out of their skid.
“We’ll think about it on the plane (to Tampa),” Trembley said. “I think these guys are mature enough. No one likes losing but we’ve lost in a variety of ways. A lot of people are frustrated with it but we’ll channel our disappointment in a more positive way.”
Jeremy Guthrie (2-2) allowed six hits in eight innings, his second career complete game. He walked one and struck out three.
Wells hit a two-run homer to left in the first. Baltimore tied it on Scott’s two-run shot to right in the second.
Toronto took the lead for good in the fifth when Rios hit a solo shot into the second deck in left, his second.
Trembley was ejected after Huff struck out looking to end the fifth, stranding Markakis at second. Huff slammed his bat, helmet and shin guard down as he walked away from the plate and Trembley was tossed after coming out to argue the call.
Trembley said he was told he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes but denied arguing about that, saying he only went out to protect Huff, who was given an equipment violation. The ejection was Trembley’s second of the season and eighth of his career.
Toronto 3B Scott Rolen made a diving catch on Brian Roberts’ liner in the seventh. … Baltimore has lost 10 of 12 against the Blue Jays dating to last season. … Trembley said LHP George Sherrill’s job as closer is no longer secure after Sherrill blew his second save of the season Saturday. Trembley said he will decide “day by day” who to use in save situations. Sherrill was an All-Star last season, saving 31 games. … Baltimore placed RHP Dennis Sarfate (circulatory problem) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 2, and recalled RHP Bob McCrory from Triple-A Norfolk. … Orioles OF Luis Montanez (sore right thumb) was held out of the lineup after injuring his hand making a sliding catch Saturday. Trembley said Montanez could play Monday at Tampa Bay.