TORONTO — Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez felt like his old self again. But it still wasn't enough to get a win.
Sanchez lost his 11th consecutive decision after a 4-1 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles before 20,530 fans at Rogers Centre on Friday. But the 27-year-old pitcher and his manager Charlie Montoyo were buoyed by the velocity Sanchez exhibited in his five-inning outing.
"I'll tell you, tonight is the first time I felt like myself in two-and-a-half years," said Sanchez, who went 15-2 in 2016 and won the American League's earned-run average title that year with a 3.00.
"Tonight, I had a little extra giddy-up in my fastball. When I go out there, and my velocity is there, it helps me navigate lineups better."
Sanchez (3-12) was better against the Orioles than in his last outing against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday when he surrendered six or more runs for his fourth consecutive outing.
He still had control difficulties, however. Sanchez struck out five Orioles but walked four batters to push his MLB-leading total to 56 bases on balls.
After former MLB homer king Chris Davis clubbed a two-out homer to left field in the second inning, back-to-back walks led to the winning run in the same frame.
Sanchez also didn't make it past five innings because he had already tossed a 100 pitches, 60 for strikes. He hasn't won since April 27.
"He was throwing harder today, and he kept that up until his last inning when he came down to 92 m.p.h. But the whole first four innings he was throwing 95-96 which he hasn't been able to do," said Montoyo. "His command needs to get better."
Sanchez departed with the Orioles ahead 2-0. Left-fielder Brandon Drury smashed his eighth homer of the season to left field in the seventh inning for Toronto's only run.
The Orioles (26-61) are the only club below the Blue Jays (33-56) in the American League East standings.
The Blue Jays bats also let down Sanchez. In the previous seven games of this 10-game homestand, Toronto has checked in with 49 runs. Orioles starter Dylan Bundy (4-10) kept the Blue Jays guessing with an effective change-up pitch.
Toronto rookie third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continued to slump. He went 0 for 3 in the opener of the three-game series. Since he suffered a hand injury in Houston on June 14, Guerrero has gone 12 for 69 for a .174 average.
"I don't think his hand is affected him," Montoyo said. "The kid is 20 years old, and he's going through a funk for the first time in his career. He's going to be all right.
"He keeps struggling, but it's funny that he's hitting around .250. That's a sign he's going to be very good some day."
Guerrero will participate in the all-star game home run derby on Monday.
Notes: Blue Jays optioned left-handed pitcher Thomas Pannone and recalled outfielder Jonathan Davis from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Friday … Left-fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. injured his left wrist when he made a diving catch against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. Outfielder Randal Grichuk has a wonky back. Both are considered day-to-day.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press