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Blue Jays can only watch as Orioles celebrate AL East title with 8-2 win

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BALTIMORE — Fireworks exploded overhead, streamers and confetti rained upon the boisterous crowd and the Baltimore Orioles jubilantly gathered behind second base to celebrate clinching the AL East crown.

The Toronto Blue Jays could do nothing more than watch, a miserable fate they won't soon forget.

With their 8-2 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday night, the Blue Jays were eliminated from the division chase. They remain alive in the wild-card hunt, but just barely.

"Watching what we had to watch was probably the worst thing you can experience as a player," losing pitcher Drew Hutchison said. "It's something you never want to have to experience again. We have some games left here. We know what the odds are. We just have to win as much as we can. We still have a lot to play for with our pride."

The Blue Jays were in first place in June. Now they're a distant second, fading in the standings while Baltimore celebrates its first AL East title since 1997.

"You never know who is going to win, but you have to be crazy to think they didn't have a good ballclub," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "They were in it two years ago. When you look at their team, it's a good ballclub. Good, solid pitching. They've got gritty, hard-nosed type players. You really see that."

Baltimore is 42-23 in a division that includes the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the free-spending New York Yankees and pitching-rich Tampa Bay. The Orioles led by only four games on Aug. 6 before going on a 27-11 run.

"We're AL East champs," Steve Pearce said in the midst of the champagne-drenched clubhouse. "Awesome."

The clinching victory featured an unlikely list of contributors, not at all unusual for a team that often delved deep into its 25-man roster.

Ubaldo Jimenez was making his first start in a month; Pearce has morphed from a bit player to a key starter; and Jimmy Paredes didn't join the team until Aug. 28.

Pearce provided the Orioles with the lead for good with a three-run drive off Hutchison (10-12) in the first inning. Pearce has 18 home runs this year, one more than he had in 290 games as a part-timer from 2007-13.

PHOTO: Baltimore Orioles' Jonathan Schoop, left, and J.J. Hardy celebrate after a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 8-2 to clinch the American League East. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Orioles' Jonathan Schoop, left, and J.J. Hardy celebrate after a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 8-2 to clinch the American League East. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Paredes hit a solo shot in the second to make it 4-2. It was his second homer in 10 games with Baltimore.

"You can't come out flat like that. That's just not acceptable," Hutchison said. "First inning, I made some good pitches and then I made a bad pitch. Same with the other home run."

After Hutchison left, Alejandro De Aza hit a three-run triple in the seventh for a 7-2 lead. De Aza came to the Orioles in an Aug. 30 trade with the Chicago White Sox.

Jimenez (5-9) overcame a rocky start to limit the Blue Jays to two runs and two hits over five innings in his third start since July 5.

After signing a $50 million, four-year deal in the offseason, Jimenez struggled with his control for much of the season, sprained his ankle in a parking lot before the All-Star break and ultimately lost his place in the rotation.

Pressed into service because the Orioles played a doubleheader Friday, Jimenez issued four walks in the first two innings. But he bounced back to retire his last 10 batters.

"I had to find a way to be there for the team," Jimenez said. "After the start, I was able to do everything good."

In the other clubhouse, the Blue Jays bemoaned their role on a night of celebration for Baltimore.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: Steve Tolleson was available off the bench after being hit on the arm by teammate Munenori Kawasaki's foul ball while sitting in the dugout the previous night. "We got lucky," Gibbons said.

Orioles: RHP Steve Johnson will have surgery to remove a bone spur from the back of his right shoulder later this month and should be ready for 2015 spring training. He did not pitch for Baltimore this year.

UP NEXT

Bud Norris (13-8) brings a 7-1 record against AL East foes into a matchup with Toronto lefty J.A. Happ in the series finale.

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