TORONTO (AP) -Jose Bautista has come a long way from Opening Day leadoff man to a slugger with 30 home runs.
Bautista hit two homers, giving him a major league-leading 30, Ricky Romero pitched 7 2-3 strong innings and Toronto beat Baltimore 8-2 on Tuesday night, the Blue Jays' 11th straight win over the Orioles.
When the season started, Bautista figured he would see plenty of good pitches leading off in front of Adam Lind, Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells. Now, he is batting third in front of that trio and leading the Blue Jays in home runs and RBIs (75).
``I figured I was going to be able to at least the hit same amount (of homers) that I usually do, like 10 or 15,' Bautista said. ``This is way over my expectations but I'm going to keep going out there and hoping for some more.'
It was the fifth multihomer game of the season for Bautista, who has connected in three straight games and leads the AL with 10 in July. He finished 4 for 4 with a walk and five RBIs.
``He's been hurting everybody, not just us,' Baltimore manager Juan Samuel said.
Bautista hit a three-run drive off Kevin Millwood in the first inning and added a two-run shot off Alfredo Simon in the eighth. He's 7 for 12 with three homers and eight RBIs against Millwood.
``I just didn't make very many good pitches tonight,' Millwood said. ``A guy that's swinging the bat as well as he is, if you don't throw really good pitches, he's going to hit it hard.'
Toronto leads the majors with 154 home runs this season, including a major league-high 39 in July. The Blue Jays lead the league with 84 homers at home, including at least one in nine straight games. They have hit 24 in that span.
Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar went 3 for 5 and is batting .386 (17 for 44) since joining the Blue Jays in a July 14 trade with Atlanta. He has hit safely in all 10 games with Toronto.
Escobar had the defensive highlight, drawing an ovation from the crowd of 16,862 after making a behind-the-back flip to force out Jake Fox at second in the fifth. Escobar said he'd never made that kind of play before.
``I don't recommend they practice it either,' a laughing Escobar said through a translator.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was just as impressed as the fans by Escobar's flashy flip.
``It should be the play of the week,' Gaston said. ``If not, I'd like to see what the play of the week is.'
The Orioles, baseball's worst team at 31-69, have lost 10 of 12 games since the All-Star break, including the past four.
``We're trying everything possible and the outcome is the same,' Samuel said. ``We just have to right this. Hopefully tomorrow things will start turning around.'
Romero (8-7) retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and didn't allow a run until the eighth. He gave up two runs, walked one and struck out eight.
``I thought he did a great job,' Gaston said. ``I appreciate what he did out there.'
Toronto wasted no time in jumping on Millwood. Fred Lewis and Escobar led off with consecutive singles and Bautista blasted a 1-0 fastball into the second deck in left.
``It was down the middle, a little bit up,' Bautista said. ``I was looking for a fastball and I got one and put good wood on it.'
The Blue Jays added one more on a bases loaded walk to Lyle Overbay in the third, then made it 6-0 on a two-run double by Wells in the fourth.
Baltimore broke through in the eighth when Julio Lugo and Miguel Tejada singled and Nick Markakis followed with an RBI double. Luke Scott hit a sacrifice fly to right, but Bautista threw out Markakis trying to advance to third, his AL-leading ninth outfield assist.
Adam Jones followed with a single but Scott Downs came on and got Matt Wieters to ground into an inning-ending force play.
Bautista answered in the bottom half with a one-out drive to center, his seventh career multihomer game.
``He's just in one of those zones right now,' Samuel said. ``We've just got to continue to make pitches on him and if we miss, he's taking advantage of them.'
Downs finished with a perfect ninth for the Blue Jays, who have won four of five.
Millwood (2-10) allowed six runs, five earned, and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings and is winless in four starts since posting his only two victories of the season. He walked four and struck out five.
The right-hander has allowed at least two first-inning runs in 10 of his past 11 starts and has allowed 31 runs in the first inning this season.
NOTES: Toronto recalled LHP Brad Mills from Triple-A Las Vegas to start Wednesday's series finale and optioned INF Mike McCoy to Las Vegas. ... Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts, activated off the 60-day DL last week, got the day off but is expected to play Wednesday. ... Samuel said the team would discuss whether RHP Brian Bergesen, who has lost seven straight decisions, would keep his spot in the rotation. ... Baltimore INF Ty Wigginton served the second and final game of his suspension for making contact with umpire Gary Darling during an argument last Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
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