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Wieters’ rocket launches Orioles to victory over Blue Jays

BALTIMORE—As poised as the Blue Jays looked to push the Orioles out of the AL East race in the opening game of this series Monday night, Baltimore showed Tuesday they have no intention to go quietly.

The home side weathered a late-inning Jays’ comeback to earn a key 5-3 victory, evening this late-summer series at a game apiece to climb back within three games of Toronto’s division lead.

“Every time we play these guys it’s like that,” said Jays manager John Gibbons. “Back and forth, back and forth.”

Fittingly for the two teams that lead the majors in home runs, all but one of Tuesday’s eight runs were scored via the long ball.

The fatal drive was delivered against setup man Jason Grilli, whose 13-inning scoreless streak was snapped by a high drive from Orioles catcher Matt Wieters that landed in the standing-room patio in front of the famed B&O Warehouse beyond the right-field wall.

Grilli, 39, said it wouldn’t take long to wipe the loss from memory.

“Tomorrow’s a new day,” he said. “That’s the old cliche, you know? Turn the page. Sometimes you get them and sometimes they get you.”

Wieters’ homer undid what was a quality start for Jays lefty J.A. Happ, who pitched into the seventh inning and held Baltimore to three runs on a pair of fifth-inning homers.

“I wasn’t at my best tonight,” Happ said. “But this is an elite team — especially at home they’re tough. I made a couple mistakes and they made me pay.”

It also rendered moot Michael Saunders’ game-tying, seventh-inning home run. For Saunders it was his 22nd home run of the season and fourth career dinger off Baltimore’s erratic righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who held the Jays to just a trio of hits through his first six innings.

The Orioles currently sit in third place and are not considered as much of a threat to the Jays as the Boston Red Sox. But despite their apparent pitching deficiencies, it would be unwise to expect Baltimore to fade from the race at this stage in the season.

Before Tuesday’s game, Gibbons said the fact his team won the division last season and advanced to the American League championship should help them mentally as they prepare to defend their title in what figures to be a month-long dogfight against both the Orioles and Red Sox.

“But we know what we’re up against,” he said. “Some good teams, teams that we always have battles with. So you never feel great. You still got to play it out, because really anybody can get hot at the right time or somebody cools off. Shoot, look at Kansas City right now,” he said, referring to the Royals, who have won 18 of their last 22 games to charge back into the postseason picture.

Gibbons then recalled the late Yogi Berra as he summed up his thoughts.

“There’s not a lot of games left, but there is a lot of games left, you know?”

After Tuesday’s loss, the Jays have 30 games to go.