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Orioles pull closer to slumping Blue Jays

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore right-hander Bud Norris used a reliable fastball to outduel Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey as the Orioles kept the pressure on the first-place Blue Jays on Saturday.

Norris allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings and Chris Davis hit a two-run homer, leading Baltimore to a 3-2 victory.

The Orioles (35-32) pulled to within 3 1/2 games of Toronto and will try to take the four-game series Sunday. The Blue Jays (40-30) have dropped six of their past eight games, scoring two runs or less in each of the losses.

"This is a staff, from the bullpen to the starters, we're all out there to help each other and get better," Norris said, "so it carries into the next guy and so forth. I'm going to pass the rock off to (Chris Tillman) tomorrow and he's going to go out there and do his thing.

"We understand that we have to improve and get better, but we're kind of cruising right now and we've got to keep going at it."

Norris (6-5) gave up seven hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. Norris threw 112 pitches, one shy of his season high, and picked up his third consecutive win.

Davis hit his 11th home run this year and major-league best 19th against Toronto since the start of the 2012 season. Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado recorded two hits after finishing with three the previous night.

Zach Britton picked up his seventh save for the Orioles.

Dickey (6-5) allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts. He left the game with right groin tightness. It was the sixth straight game in which Dickey allowed a homer.

"I just had a little tightness in my groin and I didn't want to jeopardize my next start," Dickey said. "I was probably out after that next batter anyway. So, I thought it was in everyone's best interest to call it a day."

The Blue Jays opened a 1-0 lead in the second when Norris walked catcher Josh Thole on five pitches with the bases loaded. Norris was able to escape by striking out center fielder Anthony Gose before getting a groundout by shortstop Jose Reyes.

"I think all starting pitchers, there are a couple spots in the game where you have to make some pitches and do something to minimize the damage, which he did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm real proud of the way our guys have pitched the last three days against a really good offensive team. That's what we're going to need."

Baltimore could not capitalize on its early opportunities against Dickey, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the first three innings. However, the Orioles managed to tie the game in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by catcher Nick Hundley.

Baltimore took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when center fielder Adam Jones reached on an error by third baseman Juan Francisco, knocking over first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt on his way to second. Davis then followed with a two-run shot well over the left-field fence off Dickey's 79 mph knuckler.

"There's no change in my approach and my work," Davis said. "I've been doing everything I can to try to get back to feeling good in the box. I felt the last couple of days I've started to click a little bit. Didn't have a lot to show for it. But it was big. I know the way Bud was throwing the ball, if we could get a few runs, he would hang in there."

Singles by Gose and Reyes with two outs in the seventh ended Norris' day. Right-hander Darren O'Day got left fielder Melky Cabrera to ground out to short to end the threat.

The Blue Jays threatened again in the eighth when right fielder Joe Bautista was hit by O'Day and then first baseman Edwin Encarnacion hit a liner to right field. Nelson Cruz threw a relay to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who then gunned Bautista down at the plate. Toronto challenged the call but the ruling was upheld.

Toronto still managed to pull within 3-2 that inning on a single by second baseman Brett Lawrie. Cruz helped preserve the lead on a diving catch off a drive by Thole to end the inning.

"We had a lot of opportunities today. We just couldn't cash them in," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We got hurt by the home run ball. They have a good team over there. I thought Norris was really, really good. We had some shots but just didn't get it done."

NOTES: Blue Jays RHP Sergio Santos (right elbow soreness) was activated from the 15-day disabled list. To make room, OF Darin Mastroianni was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo. Mastroianni had an option so he did not have to clear waivers. ... LHP Brett Cecil suffered a groin strain Friday against Baltimore. The club will wait a day or two before deciding whether Cecil needs to go on the DL. ... Comedian Frank Caliendo was in the Orioles' clubhouse before the game and did impressions for the team. ... Baltimore manager Buck Showalter announced RHP Miguel Gonzalez, LHP Wei Yin Chen and RHP Kevin Gausman will be the starters for the three-game series in Tampa Bay. Showalter, however, has not determined the order in which they will appear.
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