This weekend's series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles had pretty much everything. In a four-game set north of the border, three of the contests were decided by a single run. The division rivals put up 54 total runs, blasted 19 homers, and may have altered the American League's early playoff picture.
Baltimore entered the series with a four-game winning streak, which included a sweep of the reigning champion Royals. The Orioles took Game One of the series, 6-5, thanks to the power of Chris Davis, who belted a game-tying home run in the top of the seventh inning and a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the ninth.
But the series took a serious turn when Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion busted out of his 0-for-19 slump in extra innings Friday. In the bottom of the tenth, Encarnacion took Brad Brach deep to right to give Toronto a 4-3 victory. Brach hadn't given up a run since May 14 and entered the outing with a dazzling 0.84 ERA.
The last two games of the series were both total slugfests. The teams combined for 13 homers and 36 total runs, with Toronto taking Game Three by an 11-6 final score and winning the series finale 10-9 on Sunday. Encarnacion stayed hot, drilling two homers and knocking in five runs Saturday and going 2-for-4 with an RBI Sunday.
Of course, all offensive outbursts have to be at somebody's expense. Baltimore's Ubaldo Jimenez had an epic clunker of a start Sunday. He faced seven batters, allowed six hits and surrendered five runs before being pulled. His ERA jumped to a ghastly 6.89, and his 1.98 WHIP isn't much prettier to look at.
Despite Jimenez getting roughed up, the Orioles almost came back Sunday. The team hit five home runs in the game, including two from Adam Jones, and had cut the deficit to 7-6 by the fifth inning. However, it wasn't enough, as Russell Martin's three-run bomb in the sixth put the Jays in double figures again.
Baltimore has now lost three straight after winning five in a row, and the Orioles are currently tied atop the AL East with Boston (36-26). Toronto sits 2.5 games back, while the Yankees and Rays (5.5 and 6.5 out, respectively) are within shouting distance. Baltimore will soon be forced to play without shortstop Manny Machado, who is still appealing his four-game suspension for charging, punching and DDTing Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura. Machado played all weekend and went 7-for-19 (.368) with a homer and a pair of runs batted in, and his team still lost three of four. Having him out of the lineup for a couple games (probably this week at some point) won't help.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, went from being 5.5 games back Friday afternoon to 2.5 out Sunday night. It's still June, sure, but that difference could alter the team's approach going forward. Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are free agents after the season, so if the team falls off, it's possible one or both could be dealt. At this time, though, that doesn't seem likely. We've got ourselves a serious race for the AL East crown.