TORONTO â€” That familiar losing feeling hung in the air at Rogers Centre on Saturday when a rare Toronto lead was snuffed out in the top of the ninth inning by the Baltimore Orioles.
Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales made sure it didn’t last long.
The Toronto cleanup hitter led off by turning on the first pitch he saw from reliever Tyler Wilson (1-1) for a no-doubt homer that gave the Blue Jays a much-needed 2-1 victory.
The win ended Toronto’s seven-game losing skid and gave the Blue Jays their first walkoff win of the year.
“He just hung a curveball and I put the barrel on the ball,” Morales said through a translator.
It has been an April to forget for the 2-9 Blue Jays, who posted the worst 10-game stretch to open a season in franchise history.
The quiet offence managed just six hits on the day but the pitching was strong as Marco Estrada worked seven shutout innings of four-hit ball.
He was in line for his first win after pinch-hitter Darwin Barney drove in Jose Bautista to open the scoring in the seventh. Joe Biagini pitched a scoreless eighth but the Orioles scratched out a run against closer Roberto Osuna (1-0).
Welington Castillo led off with an infield single and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second before scoring after a pair of sacrifice flies.
That sucked the air out of the crowd of 40,743, before Morales sent them home happy with his second homer of the year.
“I wanted to challenge,” Wilson said of his 77-m.p.h. offering. “(I) wanted to get ahead and I didn’t execute a pitch up in the zone and he kind of jumped me from the first pitch.”
Orioles starter Alec Asher was impressive in his first start of the season. He allowed one earned run, a walk and three hits before being pulled with one out in the seventh.
Baltimore still leads the American League East division standings at 7-3.
It was Toronto’s first walkoff homer since former Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion burned the Orioles on June 10 of last year.
“I’m just glad we were able to pull it off today,” Estrada said. “It’s another nailbiter, but we pulled it off. That’s all that matters.
“We’re all excited and happy and hopefully this is the start of a long winning streak for us.”
Both teams threatened in the first inning but couldn’t push a run across. Estrada gave up a leadoff double to Seth Smith but later escaped by fanning Mark Trumbo.
The slumping Toronto offence used some small ball to try to kickstart a rally against Asher.
Kevin Pillar led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ezequiel Carrera and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Pillar was left stranded when Troy Tulowitzki popped up.
Both starters settled into a rhythm after the opening frame.
The Orioles threatened in the seventh inning when Jonathan Schoop hit a one-out double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Adam Jones flew out to strand runners on the corners.
Both teams had six hits. The Blue Jays will go for a split of the four-game series on Sunday afternoon.
Notes: The game took two hours 39 minutes to play. … All players wore No. 42 jerseys for Jackie Robinson Day. … Left-hander J.A. Happ (0-2, 5.40 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Sunday against right-hander Dylan Bundy (1-1, 2.70). … Toronto will wrap its nine-game homestand with a three-game series starting Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. … Toronto’s Chris Coghlan had his contract selected from triple-A Buffalo on Friday. He made the start at third base and went 0 for 2 at the plate.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press