Bat met ball and Julian Merryweather knew it was gone.
The Blue Jays reliever already allowed a couple baserunners in his first appearance since April 13, and, with one mighty cut, Orioles' right fielder Anthony Santander spoiled his homecoming.
Santander's deep blast to right-center field gave Baltimore a three-run lead in the seventh, and Toronto couldn't recover. The loss snapped an eight-game win streak, but the Blue Jays remain just a half-game back for the second wild-card spot after the Yankees' loss to the Mets.
It’s not surprising the Blue Jays eventually faltered—no win streak lasts forever—but the manner in which they did made Friday’s 6-3 loss quite puzzling.
With Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray on the hill, a revolving door of some less than spectacular Orioles hitters coming to the plate, and a four-game sweep of the Yankees fresh in the rearview mirror, one would think Toronto was geared for victory.
Yet Baltimore came out hacking. Cedric Mullins blasted a leadoff homer, then Austin Hayes tripled, and Ryan McKenna hit the second home run of the inning to put the Blue Jays on their heels.
Toronto trailed by three runs after the first and, midway through the second, a spontaneous kerfuffle transpired.
Opposing manager Brandon Hyde took objection to something Ray said—neither side said what that was—and lobbed some harsh, expletive-laden suggestions to the Blue Jays pitcher. Ray promptly struck out Richie Martin, escaped the jam, and eventually shot a death stare at the Orioles' bench as he walked off the mound.
It was odd to see a manager engage directly—and profanely—with an opposing player, but Ray declined to comment on what prompted the exchange.
"I'm not going to waste my time with someone that doesn't get in that box," Ray said. "I don't have the time of day.
"I think I did a pretty good job of collecting my emotions, getting back at it, and then getting the strikeout there."
The left-hander finished up after only 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, while walking two and striking out eight.
Ray's two shortest outings of the season have come against the Orioles—he pitched just 4 1/3 innings on June 18 at Camden Yards—and he said the O's have laid off his slider really well, which, for a two-pitch pitcher, makes things difficult.
"They very rarely swing at my slider," Ray said. "Which is pretty curious.
"I felt like I had to move the fastball around a lot more tonight because, again, they weren't swinging at the slider, and mix in a few change ups, a few curveballs, and just try to mix up the game plan a little bit going forward."
After Ray's struggles, the Blue Jays fought back to tie things, but not without avoiding another odd moment in the sixth. When Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tried to score on a throwing error, reliever Fernando Abad collided with him halfway down the line as he chased the errant throw.
The loss to Baltimore was a sobering moment, but Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said it won't affect how his club approaches the next game.
"[We'll prepare] like we always do, like we've done all year," he said. "This game is over, [we're] ready for the doubleheader tomorrow."