TORONTO — Aaron Sanchez stayed perfect against the Orioles and kept the Toronto Blue Jays on track for a playoff berth.
Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Sanchez struck out 10 and Toronto beat Baltimore 5-1 on Tuesday night in the opener of their AL wild-card showdown.
Ezequiel Carrera also homered as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in eight games. They lead the wild-card standings by two games over the Orioles with five to play.
Sanchez (14-2) struck out the first four hitters he faced and five of the first six. He gave up one run and five hits over six innings to win for the first time in four starts.
“We’ve seen him quite a bit and it was another impressive outing for him,” Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo said. “He’s got a big-time fastball.”
Sanchez walked three and reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time. He’s 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts against Baltimore this season.
Having faced the Orioles so frequently, Sanchez changed his pitch selection to keep Baltimore off balance.
“I threw a lot more four-seamers,” the right-hander said. “Tonight they were super aggressive. I was able to locate my heater when I needed to.”
Toronto is 10-7 against Baltimore with two meetings left, giving the Blue Jays the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same record.
Baltimore is one game ahead of Detroit for the league’s final playoff spot.
The victory also kept the Blue Jays alive in the AL East race because the Red Sox lost 6-4 to the New York Yankees. But just one Toronto loss or a Boston win would wrap up the division crown for the Red Sox.
Orioles slugger Chris Davis was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little after striking out against Joe Biagini in the seventh, the third time in three at-bats Davis was caught looking. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter also was tossed after he came out to argue.
“I just felt like the pitches that were being called against me weren’t quality pitches,” Davis said.
Batting leadoff in place of injured second baseman Devon Travis (left shoulder), Carrera went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored three runs.
“He’s been sparking us all year,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Carrera walked in the first and scored when Donaldson homered off right-hander Kevin Gausman, his 37th.
Carrera connected for an opposite-field drive in the third and drove in a run with a single in the fifth.
Two batters later, Toronto made it 5-1 when Carrera scored on third baseman Manny Machado’s throwing error.
“We gave them a lot of margin for error,” Showalter said.
Gausman (8-12) allowed five runs, four earned, and seven hits in six innings. He gave up two home runs for the second straight start.
“We know we have to win to stay,” Gausman said. “With the two teams left that we have to play (Toronto and New York), we’re definitely up against the wall.”
NO DEBATE ABOUT IT
With a night off Monday, Showalter tried watching the presidential debate but didn’t last long. “After 30 minutes I had to turn it off,” he said. “It was embarrassing.” Having passed on politics, Showalter said he ended up watching the movie “Ghostbusters.”
Orioles: Ryan Flaherty replaced Davis. … LHP Wade Miley left the team and returned home for the birth of his first child, a son. He’s expected to return in time for his next scheduled start, Friday or Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Blue Jays: Toronto reliever Joaquin Benoit will miss the rest of the regular season after tearing his left calf muscle during the second of two bench-clearing scraps in Monday night’s loss to the Yankees. … Travis is day to day after jamming his surgically repaired shoulder in the same melee with New York. … Toronto recalled INF Andy Burns from the minors and selected the contract RHP Chris Smith.
Orioles RHP Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.84 ERA) faces Blue Jays LHP Francisco Liriano (8-13, 4.88) on Wednesday night. Tillman is 2-6 with a 7.51 ERA in 12 career starts at Toronto. Liriano pitched six shutout innings against the Yankees last Friday to earn his first win since Aug. 26.