- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BALTIMORE (AP) - As the Baltimore Orioles draw closer to being officially eliminated from the playoff chase, their hitters appear to have already slipped into vacation mode.

The Orioles managed only four hits and stranded just two runners in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

After Ryan Flaherty hit a three-run homer in the second to end Baltimore’s run of scoreless innings at 29, the Orioles managed only one hit the rest of the way in their fourth straight defeat.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada and relievers Brett Cecil and Roberto Osuna retired the last 17 Baltimore batters in order.

Not that anyone in Baltimore is bothering to do any scoreboard watching anymore, but a Houston win at Seattle late Monday night would officially eliminate the Orioles from playoff contention.

In this one, Baltimore wasted a fine pitching performance by Chris Tillman, who took a four-hitter and a 3-1 lead into the eighth.

Tillman was 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA in five starts against Toronto this season, and 4-10 with a 6.02 ERA over his career. He was much improved this time around, but not good enough to get the win.

“Would’ve been better to come out of that with a W, but you know what? They’re a good team. And they never stop,” Tillman said.

Toronto’s fifth straight victory, coupled with the Yankees’ loss to Boston, reduced the Blue Jays’ magic number for winning the AL East title to two.

After scoring twice in the eighth to pull even, the Blue Jays got the decisive run against Brad Brach (5-3) in the ninth. Dioner Navarro led off with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Dalton Pompey, who advanced on a single. After a sacrifice moved the runners up, Pompey scored when Justin Smoak hit a slow roller to first and Chris Davis threw wildly to the plate.

“I hit it off my thumbs,” Smoak said. “Looking for a changeup, got a heater. That can happen.”

Cecil (5-5) pitched one inning and Osuna got two outs for this 20th save.

Estrada gave up three runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings. After allowing Flaherty’s home run, the right-hander retired 18 of the next 19 batters. The only Baltimore baserunner during that span was Matt Wieters, who singled with one out in the fourth.

Down 3-1, the Blue Jays rallied in the eighth against Tillman and All-Star reliever Darren O’Day. Ryan Goins led off with a single and advanced on a groundout before O’Day entered and gave up RBI singles to Ben Revere and Jose Bautista.

“Tip my hat to my guys,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “They hung around and made a run at it late.”

After Edwin Encarnacion led off the second inning with his 36th home run, Baltimore answered in the bottom half. Wieters and Jonathan Schoop hit successive one-out singles before Flaherty hit an opposite-field drive that barely cleared the left-field wall.

Those were the Orioles’ first runs since Thursday in Washington. They were blanked in three straight games by Boston over the weekend.

But more zeroes followed, right up through the ninth.

STREAKY

Blue Jays: Navarro has a season-high, eight-game hitting streak. Kevin Pillar has hit in six straight, batting .591 over that span.

Orioles: Brach took his first loss in 39 games since June 6.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki (shoulder, back) took batting practice and could be back in the lineup during this series. He hasn’t played since Sept. 12.

Orioles: Adam Jones was held from the starting lineup for the sixth time in seven games because of an ailing back. “We’ll back off a day, see what tomorrow brings,” manager Buck Showalter said.

ON DECK

Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (3-0, 1.89 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season Tuesday night. The right-hander came off the DL on Sept. 11 following knee surgery.

Orioles: Miguel Gonzalez (9-11, 4.85 ERA) starts for the first time since Aug. 30 after being sidelined with right shoulder tendinitis.


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