Baseball / Sports

Caleb Joseph's two-run home run leads Orioles to 2-1 victory over Blue Jays

TORONTO -- Caleb Joseph's new upright stance and growing confidence has done wonders for the Orioles rookie catcher, transforming previously untapped potential into unexpected power.

While Joseph might have never received the opportunity to be a starter in a major league pennant race had Matt Wieters not needed season-ending elbow surgery -- or had Joseph not worked tirelessly in the minors to improve behind the plate -- he has given the Orioles a tremendous boost with his bat in his past four starts.

Joseph's two-run homer in the fourth inning -- the club's only offense against Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ -- led the Orioles to a 2-1 win in Thursday night's series finale at the Rogers Centre.

Joseph, 28, became just the second Orioles rookie to homer in four consecutive games -- Jay Gibbons also did it in 2001 -- and he is just the third catcher in club history to accomplish the feat, joining Ramon Hernandez (2006) and Gus Triandos (1959).

With the victory, the Orioles (65-49) took two of three games here in Toronto and claimed their season-high sixth consecutive series win as well as their fourth straight on the road.

The first-place Orioles headed back to Baltimore for a six-game homestand against the St, Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees with a five-game lead in the American League East over the Blue Jays and the Yankees.

The Orioles have taken control of the division through some tough travels on the road. They've been successful while heading out west for a 10-game road trip last month, playing a rescheduled game in Washington on Monday and racing sunrise to Toronto that night.

The Orioles are now 20-8 on the road since May 31, and their 35 road wins are the most by any AL team this season.

They've won the first two series this season in Toronto, which used to be a House of Horrors for the Orioles. Their final trip here, which will be the final three games of the regular season in late September, could hold tremendous importance provided these teams remain close together atop the division.

Joseph, who needed 33 games to hit his first three major league homers, has launched longballs in each of his last four games. Joseph credits an adjustment in his stance -- hitting coach Jim Presley told Joseph to stand taller in the box -- as well as getting more comfortable with major league pitching.

On Thursday, he launched a 2-0, 93-mph fastball from Happ into the first row of the left-field seats to break a scoreless tie in the fourth inning.

Joseph's homer, which followed J.J. Hardy's leadoff ground-rule double, was the Orioles' only hit with runners in scoring position in eight opportunities off Happ.

Happ (8-6) held the Orioles to just five hits and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts. After Joseph's homer, Happ retired the final 14 Orioles batters he faced.

Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez battled with his pitch count, but he still recorded a quality start, allowing one run and four hits in six innings.

Gonzalez (6-6), who needed 79 pitches to get through his first four innings, made only one mistake -- a solo homer to No. 9 hitter Anthony Gose to open the fifth.

Gonzalez worked his way out of trouble throughout the night against the Blue Jays (61-55). He stranded two runners on base in the third inning after issuing back-to-back, two-out walks. He left two runners in scoring position in the fourth after inducing a flyout from Ryan Goins.

And while Gose's leadoff homer in the fifth offered the potential of a big inning, Gonzalez got an inning-ending double-play ball to end that threat.

But Gose's homer was the 19th that Gonzalez has allowed this season, tying him with teammate Wei-Yin Chen for fourth-most in the AL.

Still, Gonzalez has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts.

The Orioles bullpen preserved the one-run lead.

Left-hander Andrew Miller retired three left-handed hitters in order on 11 pitches in the seventh. Darren O'Day overcame a close ball four call on Jose Bautista with two outs to pitch a clean eighth, and closer Zach Britton converted his 24thsave in 27 opportunities with a perfect ninth.

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