TORONTO -- The Blue Jays had Baltimore starter Jason Hammel on the ropes during the second inning on Saturday evening, but instead of going for the knockout, they let him off the hook.
With one run in, Toronto had the bases loaded with just one out. Hammel was laboring on the mound, and the Blue Jays appeared primed for a big inning until things started to come unglued.
The final blow occurred when Brett Lawrie was thrown out while attempting to steal home -- with Jose Bautista at the plate -- to end the inning and set the stage for what would eventually become a 6-4 loss to the Orioles.
"Aggressive, yes, [but] probably not the best decision to make at that time, particularly with who's at the plate," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We were in an extended inning with Hammel, and [Lawrie] felt like he had good timing ... in terms of the beginning of [Hammel's] delivery to the point of releasing the baseball. He felt like he could steal a bag, which shut down a potential big inning."
Eric Thames began the second with a double to the gap in left-center field. Two batters later, he scored on an RBI single by Colby Rasmus, and Toronto's rally continued with the bases loaded and just one out for Kelly Johnson.
Johnson, who hit a solo homer in the first inning, quickly got ahead in the count 3-0 before swinging through a couple of fastballs. Hammel then got Johnson looking for strike three, but the inning continued with Bautista on his way to the plate.
Bautista fell behind 0-2 when things took a bizarre turn. Lawrie started edging his way down the third-base line and used the walking lead to jump-start a sprint for home plate.
Hammel hesitated at first, but then realized what was happening and stepped off the mound to throw home. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters caught the toss and easily tagged out Lawrie to end the frame.
"I was surprised. It was more of a thank you [with] Bautista up there, bases loaded," Hammel said. "It was more of a favor to me to try to steal home. I was very calm, stepped off and actually gave Wieter a bad throw, and he was able to get the tag down and out of the inning. That was a big spot in the game."
Lawrie decided to take the gamble because he noticed Hammel had gone back to a full windup with the bases loaded. That increased his loading time to the plate, and Lawrie felt like there was enough of an opportunity to slide in safely.
The problem was that Hammel noticed Lawrie taking off before he actually went into his pitching motion, which led to the putout.
"I don't have any regrets about that situation," Lawrie said. "But at the same time, I never want to take the bat out of Jose's hands, especially in that situation with the bases loaded and one of the best hitters in the game up. I don't want to take the bat out of his hands, but at the same time, I'm going to continue to be aggressive, just have to be a little bit smarter next time."
The wasted opportunity would end up coming back to haunt the Blue Jays later in the game thanks in part to another disappointing evening for the bullpen.
The Blue Jays had a one-run lead heading into the top of the eighth inning only to see it evaporate for the second consecutive day. Right-hander Casey Janssen retired the first two batters he faced and then worked the count to 3-2 against Wilson Betemit.
Betemit, who had the decisive hit on Friday night, came through for Baltimore again. This time it was a home run to right that tied the game at 4.
Francisco Cordero entered the game in the ninth but didn't have any luck keeping the Orioles in check. With one on and one out, Cordero served up a 1-0 slider that Nolan Reimold sent into the second deck in left field for his second homer of the year.
That sent the Blue Jays to their fourth loss of the season -- all of which saw the club have a lead in the eighth inning or later.
"That lineup has got power in it from top to bottom, and if you don't make quality pitches, that's what can happen," Farrell said. "There's no doubt that the ball is carrying exceptionally well right now, but that's not to take anything away from their power."
The bullpen woes cost starter Henderson Alvarez an opportunity to win his first game of the season. Alvarez had a little bit of trouble settling into a groove during the early innings, but he appeared to get stronger as the game went on. He allowed three runs on six hits while striking out two and walking just one.
The Toronto right-hander had some problems in the first inning, when he allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base en route to a Baltimore run. In the fourth, he served up a 2-2 slider to Chris Davis that was sent over the wall in right field for a two-run shot.
Those were the only major mistakes for Alvarez, who has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine of his 12 career starts in the Major Leagues.
"I feel I pitched well and gave us a chance to win the game," Alvarez said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "After that, it's out of my hands."