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Orioles send Blue Jays into 'worst ever' territory with 2-1 victory

Orioles send Blue Jays into 'worst ever' territory with 2-1 victory

TORONTO  -- Zach Britton and the Baltimore Orioles made it a total loss for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Britton escaped a nervy ninth inning and the Orioles handed the Blue Jays their sixth straight defeat, 2-1 on Thursday night.

Toronto is off to a franchise-worst 1-8 start. The Blue Jays also saw star slugger Josh Donaldson leave in the sixth when he aggravated the sore right calf that kept him out of Tuesday's home opener. Donaldson will be reevaluated Friday.

Four of Toronto's eight defeats have been one-run decisions, and only one has been by more than two runs.

"It's not like we're getting crushed every night," catcher Russell Martin said.

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Kevin Gausman (1-0) pitched six innings for his first victory in nine career appearances at Rogers Centre.

"You can talk about a lot of things in the game but Kevin was the difference," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Britton took over in the ninth and Troy Tulowitzki hit a one-out single, Martin followed with a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Britton held on for his fourth save, retiring Kevin Pillar on a grounder then getting pinch hitter and former teammate Steve Pearce on a flyball.

Britton got Pearce in a key spot for the second time this season. In Baltimore's second game of the year, Britton got Pearce to ground into a bases-loaded double play to preserve a 3-1 win.

"I've got a little bit of history with him," Britton said. "I've seen him hit quite a bit now, faced him quite a bit now, understand that he hits lefties well. If anything, it helps you out a little bit knowing him."

Francisco Liriano (0-1), who allowed five runs in one-third of an inning in his season-opening loss to Tampa Bay last week, rebounded nicely against Baltimore. He struck out 10 and gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings.

The Blue Jays, last in the majors with 24 total runs, saw Donaldson get hurt on an RBI double. Starting at DH for the second straight game, Donaldson pulled up as he rounded first base, hobbling into second before being replaced.

Eleven of Gausman's 18 outs came on grounders, including one double play.

"Any time I can get groundball outs, that kind of shows me that I have it that day," he said.

After Gausman left, Darren O'Day and Brad Brach each worked a scoreless inning.

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Baltimore strung together four straight hits off Liriano to start the fifth. Wellington Castillo and Trey Mancini singled before Jonathan Schoop doubled and J.J. Hardy hit an RBI single.

Seeking to spark his offense, Toronto manager John Gibbons moved outfielder Ezequiel Carrera into the leadoff spot and dropped Devon Travis, who came in hitless in 23 at bats, to ninth. Neither move paid dividends, as Carrera finished 0 for 4 and Travis went 0 for 3.

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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