Late-inning tension goes Jays' way in win
Gaston pulls Gregg, but Camp secures win for solid Morrow
BALTIMORE -- When Cito Gaston emerged from the visitors' dugout at Camden Yards in the ninth inning Saturday night, it was not because the manager wanted to discuss the situation with closer Kevin Gregg. Gaston had simply seen enough.
Gregg had just issued a five-pitch walk -- the closer's third free pass of the inning -- to Baltimore's Julio Lugo to load the bases with two outs. With the game on the line, Gaston decided to turn to reliever Shawn Camp, leading Gregg to bark some choice words at his skipper as he handed over the baseball and headed off the mound.
It was a tense moment that overshadowed a strong performance from starter Brandon Morrow and an eighth-inning go-ahead home run from Jose Bautista in a 3-2 victory over the Orioles. Gregg and Gaston had a staredown in the dugout and then held a closed-door meeting in the manager's office to hash out any lingering issues over the ninth-inning decision.
"I spoke with him," Gaston said. "I think we straightened things out. He disagreed that I took him out, but that's my job. I'm the manager. When it does go bad, I take the heat for it. When it goes good, everybody else gets the glory for it. But, it's not about that.
"It's just about the fact that he walked three guys and I felt like he had enough."
Gregg has been solid for the Blue Jays (46-45) this season, converting 21 saves in his 24 opportunities. That said, Gaston has seen the big right-hander suffer late-inning meltdowns -- a five-walk, four-run lapse on June 1 led to a 7-6 loss to the Rays -- and the manager felt Gregg's latest showing was heading south swiftly.
The decision to turn to Camp, who has arguably been Toronto's most reliable option out of the bullpen this season, ultimately paid off. Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Camp induced a groundout off the bat of Cesar Izturis to end the game and seal the win. Even so, Gaston's call sat well with Gregg.
"Of course I don't want to come out of the game," Gregg said. "Being the closer, if you get yourself in trouble, you're going to get yourself out of it. He saw things differently. I think I was just more surprised by the move than anything, but that's his right as a manager. He can make that decision and it worked."
Gregg did not divulge what was said behind closed doors.
"It's just between me and him," Gregg said. "It's the heat of the game. That's really all I can say. I was stuck in the heat of the game. We win. That's all that counts."
Nearly lost amidst the late-inning controversy was a strong outing from Morrow (6-6), who limited the Orioles (29-61) to two runs on five hits over seven innings of work. Both Baltimore runs came in the fifth inning, when Morrow slipped into a bases-loaded jam and relinquished a two-run single to Izturis.
Iztruris' hit put the Jays behind, 2-1, and had Morrow in line for a hard-luck loss. Toronto's lone run to that point against Orioles righty Jeremy Guthrie came courtesy of a leadoff home run from Fred Lewis in the first inning. In the eighth, Bautista belted a two-run homer off Baltimore reliever Jason Berken to give the Jays a 3-2 lead.
For Bautista, the blast was his Major League-leading 25th of the season.
"Bautista picked me up with a big two-run home run and got me the win," Morrow said.
It certainly helped that left-handed reliever Scott Downs got Baltimore's Nick Markakis to bounce into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners in the eighth. Morrow's win was also aided by Camp's one-out performance that locked up a series win for the Jays in this three-game road set against the Orioles.
Cito's decision put Camp in a tough position, though.
"You always want to pick and choose your battles," Camp said. "Pitching at the end of the game is always a plus, but Kevin's our closer. He's done a tremendous job and he'll continue to be our closer and he'll continue to do a great job."
That was one thing that Gaston wanted to make clear.
No matter what happened in the ninth inning Saturday night, Gregg would continue to serve as the Jays' primary closer. The decision to pull the pitcher in the midst of a save situation -- the first time Gregg could recall that ever happening to him in the big leagues -- was not a sign that the closer's job is in jeopardy.
"He's still going to be our closer," Gaston said.
Gaston also noted that he did not enjoy making the move.
"It's always tough to do that to anyone," Gaston said. "That's part of the business -- part of my job -- and I don't really like doing those sort of things. If you can't play for me, I don't think you can play for anyone. I just felt like he had enough and I went and got him.
"I'm still happy. We won a ballgame. I'm not sure about him, but I'm happy."
Gregg was careful with his comments.
"I'm going to go out there and do my job," he said. "It's Cito's team. He can make any move he wants."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.