Small crowd sees Jays dodge no-hitter — then almost rally to beat Orioles

There wasn’t much to cheer about at the Rogers Centre by the time Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde strolled to the mound to pull starter David Hess, who was riding a no-hitter through 61/3 innings. Blue Jays starter Sean Reid-Foley had already put his team on the ropes by giving up five runs in two innings, Billy McKinney was the only Jay to reach base at that point, with a fourth-inning walk, and the crowd of 10,460 was downright sombre.

Hess tried to make a case to stay in — he was only at 82 pitches, after all — but the manager made the call to the bullpen. The crowd, with nothing else to root for, booed the decision, eliminating the chance of seeing a no-no by the Baltimore right-hander, who had struck out a career-high eight.

In the end, though, the home side at least made it interesting, with the Jays eventually dropping a 6-5 decision.

  • Slow start: Reid-Foley — starting instead of Clayton Richard, who was placed on the injured list with a right knee stress reaction — gave up five of Baltimore six runs in the first two innings, including a two-run homer by Jonathan Villar in the first. The bomb snapped Toronto’s franchise record string of shutout innings by starters at 24. Reid-Foley struggled with fastball command, giving up two walks, hitting one batter and tossing two wild pitches, one of which led to a run by Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz. “Obviously it would have been nice to extend (the shutout streak),” said Reid-Foley. “It would’ve been a good outing, but just got hit around a little bit. Now just move on.”
  • Bat signals: Jays batters are just 1-for-46 the first time through the order this season, and manager Charlie Montoyo wasn’t making an excuses: “It has been a struggle. I’m not going to defend our offence right now … I could talk about adjustments all day, but we haven’t been doing them. In the first four innings almost every game we’ve gotten no-hit, but also you’ve got to give them credit for making a comeback. We could have just died and not done anything.”
  • Bullpen bailout: Toronto’s bullpen was hurting after an 11-inning game against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. Tim Mayza, Joe Biagini and Ken Giles were all ruled out. They needed some length out of the rest, and they got it from Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio, who combined to give up just two hits over seven innings. Gaviglio surrendered Baltimore’s final run, a solo homer by Trey Mancini in the seventh.
  • On board: Toronto put up five runs after Hess’s exit, thanks to a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk in the seventh, a solo homer by Freddy Galvis in the eighth, and a sacrifice fly by Kevin Pillar plus an RBI triple by Teoscar Hernandez in the ninth. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who represented the winning run with two out in the ninth and Hernandez at third, struck out to end the game.
  • Injury updates: Pitcher Clay Buchholz is scheduled to throw 60 pitches on Tuesday and 70 on Sunday, an appearance that could take place in Buffalo for the Triple-A Bisons. He could slot into the rotation on April 13 against the Tampa Bay Rays if all goes well … Lefty starter Ryan Borucki and righty reliever Ryan Tepera are both expected to throw side sessions on Wednesday. Toronto is targeting a mid-April return for Tepera and late April for Borucki, who could come back against the San Francisco Giants on April 23 or 24 … There is no timetable for reliever Bud Norris, who got a late start to spring and hasn’t rediscovered his velocity. The 34-year-old’s fastball averaged 95 miles per hour last season; he is currently only hitting about 91.
  • Vlad watch: Montoyo said No. 1 prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. is coming along after suffering a left oblique strain during a spring training game. He’s now playing in extended spring games. Missing a chunk of time in the pre-season means he needs at-bats before he reaches the big leagues, and there doesn’t seem to be any rush. “I honestly told him yesterday: ‘Take your time. Make sure you get enough at-bats, because you lost a lot of at-bats in spring training because you got hurt,’” Montoyo said pre-game. “And Buffalo’s cold, so take your time. Whenever you feel like you’re ready and locked in at the plate, then go to Buffalo and then we’ll go from there.”
  • Up next: Marcus Stroman, who went seven shutout innings in the season opener, makes his second start of the season against fellow right-hander Andrew Cashner (0-1, 13.50) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy