- Associated Press - Sunday, July 18, 2010

BALTIMORE | Yunel Escobar ended his home run drought with the most productive swing of his life.

Escobar hit his first career grand slam during a six-run second inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays cruised past the Baltimore Orioles 10-1 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Playing his third game with the Blue Jays since being traded by the Atlanta Braves, Escobar tied a career high with five RBIs and got three hits to increase his batting average with Toronto to .462. He hit .238 with no homers in 75 games with Atlanta.

Escobar’s shot off Brian Matusz (3-10) was the only grand slam he can remember hitting — ever.

“Not even when he was a little kid,” said bench coach Nick Levya, who served as Escobar’s translator.

Escobar, a 200-pound shortstop, is no slugger. But after hitting 14 homers with Atlanta last year, he was tired of hearing about his failure to connect in 2010.

“A lot of people were asking him about it … doubting whether he could hit (a home run) or not,” Levya said. “He knows he can.”

The long-awaited drive stretched Toronto’s major league-leading home run total to 140 and enabled the Blue Jays to become the last AL team to hit a grand slam. Toronto has homered in a season-high 11 straight games, collecting 25 over that span.

John Buck had three hits and two RBIs for the Blue Jays, who are 9-0 against Baltimore this season — including 6-0 at Camden Yards. Toronto has won six of eight to move two games over .500 (47-45) for the first time since June 29.

Shaun Marcum (8-4) allowed one run and nine hits over five innings in his return from a 16-day stint on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.

Nick Markakis had a third of those hits, going 3 for 3 to lift his career batting average against the right-hander to .462.

“I tell you what, he’s the best player I’ve ever faced,” Marcum said. “I think he’s hitting 7.000 off me.”

But the Orioles stranded 11 and went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Baltimore is batting .228 with runners in scoring position this season, and interim manager Juan Samuel bristled when asked about the shortcoming after Sunday’s game.

“Well, I just think we are beating a dead horse here,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this all year. We just need to move on from that.”

The last time Baltimore started 0-9 against an opponent was in 1988 against Cleveland.

“It’s just one of those clubs,” Samuel said of the Blue Jays. “They are a good offensive club that seems to have our number.”

After an RBI single by Adam Jones put Baltimore up 1-0, Toronto took control in the second inning. A run-scoring single by Buck tied it, and two batters later Escobar sent a 1-0 pitch into the left-field seats.

“I was saying before he hit it that it would be a good time to get his first home run,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “That was a great time for it.”

Vernon Wells capped the uprising with an RBI double that chased Matusz.

Matusz has failed to get past the third inning in his past two starts and is now tied with teammate Jeremy Guthrie for the most losses in the American League.

“It’s just some mechanical adjustments I need to make,” Matusz said. “When I’m staying down in the zone, I’m effective. When I’m not, I’m getting hit. Today was a tough day.”

Buck singled in a run off Mark Hendrickson in the third inning, Adam Lind hit a run-scoring grounder in the fourth and Escobar added an RBI single in the fifth for a 9-1 lead.

Edwin Encarnacion drove in a ninth-inning run for Toronto with his third single of the game.

NOTES: Orioles LF Corey Patterson was a late scratch with a bruised left heel. He’s day-to-day. … Lind extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games. … The crowd of 14,032 pushed Baltimore’s home attendance over 1 million.

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