TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion picked a good time to start potentially breaking out of their prolonged slumps at the plate.
Both players are expected to play pivotal roles in the Blue Jays lineup this season, but they have gotten off to slow starts. Toronto's strength on offense was supposed to be the overall depth of its lineup one through nine, but to date the club has mostly relied on Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista.
That changed on Tuesday night as Lawrie and Encarnacion each had three-run homers while Cabrera continued rolling along with one of his own in a 9-3 victory over the Orioles at Rogers Centre.
"That's where home runs come in handy, home runs do win and we had the three big ones," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It was good seeing Edwin get his first one of the year. They were shutting us down, [Miguel] Gonzalez was doing a heck of a job pitching. ... Then of course, Brett to put us up and Melky to ice it, to give us a little breathing room. But we can hit, it's a good hitter's ballpark."
Toronto entered the day tied for 18th in the Major Leagues with 78 runs scored. In a sign of just how congested a lot of teams are across baseball, the nine runs scored allowed the Blue Jays to jump all the way to eighth in that category.
The overall numbers are fine, but there is still room for a lot of improvement. The Blue Jays have been getting very little production at the bottom of their order, and it wasn't until Tuesday night that there were signs of life from Encarnacion, who has been one of the best hitters in the American League over the past two seasons.
If Encarnacion and Lawrie start heating up, combined with the return of a healthy Jose Reyes and the continued production of Bautista and Cabrera, this has a chance to become a very dangerous lineup that could cause a lot of damage in the AL East.
"One though nine, that's the thing," said Lawrie, who leads the team with 15 RBIs despite hitting just .135. "We've lengthened our lineup to where we're not stacked toward the top. We are stacked toward the top, but I mean ... one through nine can get you. It depends on who's hot and who's not at the time. Just whenever you get the right guy in the right situation, keep swinging and keep positive."
For quite a while on Tuesday night, it didn't appear as though the Blue Jays were going to need very many runs to win. R.A. Dickey was cruising along and faced just two batters over the minimum with four strikeouts through five innings, but his outing began to fall apart in the sixth.
Dickey's problems began when a high popup wasn't caught by either Cabrera or Reyes and dropped for a double. Dickey then walked the next batter he faced before serving up a deep home run to Nelson Cruz. It was the fourth of the season for Cruz and marked the third homer surrendered by Dickey this season.
Encarnacion evened the score in the bottom half of the inning with a three-run shot of his own off Gonzalez. Encarnacion started the 2013 season in familiar fashion by hitting just .200 with a .592 OPS as of April 22, but then quickly turned things around at the plate and looks to be doing something similar this year.
Dickey came back out for the seventh, but allowed a leadoff single and then an opposite-field double to Nick Markakis. That put runners on second and third with nobody out, but Neil Wagner induced a weak groundball before Brett Cecil entered and eventually struck out Adam Jones and Steve Clevenger to end the inning without any runs crossing the plate.
"There's a consistent pattern that's emerging where I feel like I'm an All-Star for the first four or five innings of a ball game, then I get to pitches 75 to 100 and it's like I'm a different human being out there," said Dickey, who was charged with the three runs on six hits and three walks over six-plus innings.
"I'm trying to figure out what that's about physically, but there are a lot of positives. I felt since the Yankee game I've been really close to being consistent, but I haven't been able to put a full game together yet."
Thankfully for Toronto, Lawrie went on to give his club a 6-3 lead in the eighth with a three-run shot to straightaway center field. That snapped an 0-for-10 skid at the plate. Even though Lawrie has only 10 hits this season, four of them have left the park.
Cabrera then put the game out of reach with another three-run homer in the inning. Cabrera already has two more home runs than he did all of last season and now leads the Major Leagues with 31 hits. It was the fifth time in the past eight games that the Blue Jays have scored at least five runs, and after a slow start to the season things seem to be turning around offensively.
"It's going to be great, it's going to be fun to watch," Encarnacion said of his team's offense. "We have a very talented team and we know we can hit, so when we start hitting it's going to be great to watch this team play."