Hot Orioles just a game back of Yanks

Posted: September 04, 2012

JOE SAUNDERS began pondering perfection just one inning into his latest start.

Saunders and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and the charging Baltimore Orioles blanked host Toronto, 4-0, Monday, cutting their AL East deficit to one game.

"[Saunders] was the difference today," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.

The Orioles, who took two of three at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, moved even closer to New York. The Yankees lost, 4-3, at Tampa Bay.

J.J. Hardy drove in two runs as the Orioles won for the eighth time in 10 games. The one-game gap marks the closest anyone has been to the Yankees since mid-June.

Acquired recently from Arizona, Saunders (1-1) retired the first 17 Blue Jays batters before hanging a changeup to nine-hole hitter Adeiny Hechavarria, who lined a two-out single to center in the sixth. Saunders acknowledged he'd long been dreaming of the possibility of a perfect game or no-hitter.

"You think about it," he said, smiling. "I thought about it after the first. I was like 'Ooh, nice. I didn't give up a hit in the first."'

The Orioles have won 20 of 28 overall.

In other games:

* At Kansas City, Yu Darvish retired the first 17 batters, Texas hit five home runs and the Rangers beat the Royals, 8-4, in a game that turned testy.

Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz homered on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning. Cruz watched his drive sail over the wall, then was hit by Louis Coleman's first pitch leading off the ninth. Cruz took a few steps to the mound, but was restrained by catcher Brayan Pena. The dugouts and bullpens emptied, but only words were exchanged. Both teams were issued a warning by plate umpire Mike Everitt. Mike Young answered that by homering on the next pitch.

* At St. Petersburg, Fla., James Shields pitched eight strong innings to outlast CC Sabathia and light-hitting Chris Gimenez drove in two runs, helping the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees, 4-3, and further tightening the AL East race. The Rays moved within 2 1/2 games of New York.

Shields (13-8) and the Rays ruined the return of Alex Rodriguez. The slugger went 1-for-4 with a strikeout in his first game after being sidelined 6 weeks with a broken left hand.

* At Detroit, Asdrubal Cabrera's tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning lifted the Cleveland Indians to a 3-2 win over the Tigers, giving righthander Corey Kluber his first career victory.

Detroit entered the day tied for first with Chicago in the AL Central.

* At Oakland, Chris Iannetta hit a two-run homer in a three-hit day, Vernon Wells had a solo shot and RBI single, and the Los Angeles Angels snapped the Athletics' season-best nine-game winning streak with an 8-3 win.

* At Seattle, Jason Vargas (14-9) pitched seven solid innings and the Mariners sent Boston to its season-worst seventh straight loss, beating the sloppy Red Sox, 4-1. The Red Sox botched two key plays and fell to 0-7 on their road trip during which they've been outscored, 58-16.

* At Chicago, Gordon Beckham knocked in three runs, including a two-run homer in the first inning and Hector Santiago won in his first major league start, as the White Sox maintained a one-game lead in the AL Central over Detroit with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.

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