TORONTO (AP) — Add a new chapter to Munenori Kawasaki’s remarkable run.
Kawasaki hit his first career home run, a game-tying shot in the seventh inning, Rajai Davis singled home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied for their ninth straight win, 7-6 over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
“The legend grows, the Kawasaki legend grows, and rightfully so,” Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey said.
Kawasaki went 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Eight of his 17 RBIs this season have come against the Orioles: he also beat them with a two-run double in the ninth inning of a 6-5 win on May 26.
“He’s been doing that all year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us.”
Kawasaki has been playing shortstop for Toronto in the absence of Jose Reyes, who’s been out since April 13 with a sprained left ankle. Reyes is currently rehabbing with Triple-A Buffalo and could be back Monday.
But Kawasaki’s continued heroics might just make him indispensable.
“Nobody has said that Kawasaki was going down,” Gibbons said. “People might assume that but we don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest.”
Casey Janssen (2-0) worked one inning for the win while Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion both homered for the Blue Jays, who reached .500 for the first time since July 30, 2012.
“We’re starting to become family and it’s showing,” Dickey said.
Toronto has won 13 of its past 16 and has gone 26-15 since May 2, when they were a season-worst 10-21.
“We’ve definitely come back to life, that’s for sure,” Gibbons said. “We’re riding a nice high right now.”
Facing Orioles reliever Brian Matusz (2-1), Maicer Izturis singled to begin the ninth and moved to second on Josh Thole’s sacrifice. Pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa was intentionally walked to bring up Kawasaki. With the crowd of 35,472 chanting his name, Kawasaki moved up both runners with a grounder.
“Unbelievable,” Kawasaki said of the ovation. “I was nervous.”
Pedro Strop came on to face Davis, who lined a single over the head of shortstop J.J. Hardy. Davis’ teammates poured out of the dugout in celebration, mobbing him and tearing off his jersey.
“We’ve got to give credit to Kawasaki,” Davis said. “He had some big hits with men on base. My hit doesn’t even happen without those big hits.”
Chris Davis hit his major league leading 27th home run for the Orioles, who also got homers from Hardy and Ryan Flaherty.
Toronto took an early lead when Lind hit a two-run homer off Jason Hammel in the first, his 10th. Hammel has allowed 10 runs in the first inning of his 15 starts this season.
Hardy’s hit a two-out solo shot in the second, his 15th, to cut it to 2-1, but the Blue Jays got a run in the fifth on Kawasaki’s two-out RBI single.
Nate McLouth singled to open the sixth and Nick Markakis drew a one-out walk. McLouth scored on Adam Jones’ base hit and Davis followed with his third homer in the past two games.
Davis had two homers and five RBIs in Wednesday’s 13-3 win over Detroit.
Encarnacion answered with a leadoff drive in the bottom half, his 20th, cutting it to 5-4, but Flaherty’s leadoff drive in the seventh restored Baltimore’s two-run lead.
Tommy Hunter replaced Hammel to begin the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to Izturis, Two outs later, Kawasaki tied it at 6 by hitting a 1-1 pitch into the right field bullpen.
Kawasaki said he felt like he was dreaming as he circled the bases for his first homer in 247 big league at bats.
“I would say that it’s no surprise but that home run was a surprise,” Dickey joked.
Called out of the dugout for a curtain call, Kawasaki bowed several times before tipping his cap.
All three Baltimore homers came off Dickey, who matched a season-worst by allowing three longballs.
Dickey allowed six runs and seven hits in six-plus innings. The right-hander, who walked two and struck out five, has a 6.02 ERA in eight home starts this season.
“I had a pretty good knuckleball going into the game, threw a couple of hangers up there and they got punished in bad situations,” Dickey said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected in the second for arguing with plate umpire Angel Hernandez. He was replaced by bench coach John Russell.
Davis struck out swinging to begin the inning, but the pitch got away from catcher Thole and Hernandez ruled it a foul ball as Thole threw to first base. Gibbons came out and the umpires huddled, then called Davis out.
That brought out Showalter for an animated discussion with Hernandez. After being tossed, Showalter pointed at all four umpires, then mimicked throwing them out of the game.
“I don’t know if the umpires considered the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right,” said Showalter, who was ejected for the first time this season.
NOTES: Baltimore 3B Manny Machado’s single in the first was his ML-leading 104th hit. … Reyes went 1-for-4 and scored the game-winning run for Buffalo in the first Triple-A game of his rehab assignment. … Baltimore activated RHP Miguel Gonzalez off the paternity list and put OF Steve Pearce (left wrist) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Thursday. Gonzalez will start against Toronto on Saturday. … Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts (right hamstring) is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday.