BALTIMORE -- Not too long ago, all R.A. Dickey felt like he had to do to help his team win was show up to the ballpark.
"And hold the team to five runs," he added.
That was when the Blue Jays' offense was rolling and the team had surged way out ahead of the pack in the American League East.
Dickey was better than that on Saturday, but it didn't matter. Toronto's offense isn't what it was two weeks ago when the Blue Jays transformed into one of the best teams in the Major Leagues. Toronto wasted a strong 6 2/3 innings from its starting pitcher against the Orioles on Saturday in front of 33,901 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and fell, 3-2.
For the eighth time in nine games, the Blue Jays were unable to score more than four runs. When the offense is going poorly like this, sometimes a team's own worst enemy can be itself. Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning, Edwin Encarnacion laced a double down the left-field line and Jose Bautista charged from first base eyeing home plate.
Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz tossed the ball into the infield, and shortstop J.J. Hardy fired the relay home. His throw beat Bautista by a fraction of a second.
"Sometimes when you're not scoring runs you try to force some things," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "They executed their play. You tip your hat to them."
Encarnacion scored later in the inning. Had the Blue Jays opted to hold Bautista at third with one out, they likely would have tied the game.
Before that inning, though, Baltimore starter Bud Norris nearly held Toronto scoreless. He left after 6 2/3 innings after allowing just seven hits and one earned run -- a run he gifted to a scuffling Blue Jays offense.
Toronto's little rally started with a pair of singles, then Norris fell out of sorts. He hit Brett Lawrie with a pitch to load the bases and followed it up with a walk to catcher Josh Thole -- his only one of the day -- to hand the Blue Jays the first run of the ballgame.
Norris set down 16 of the next 18 batters he faced.
"He was popping it pretty good," Gibbons said. "He's having a good year for them. Big league level, man. These guys can pitch."
As good as Dickey was, one run wasn't enough. The O's got one back in the fourth and took the lead in the fifth. An error by third baseman Juan Francisco let Adam Jones reach safely before Chris Davis turned on a knuckleball and belted a two-run home run into the Orioles' bullpen to give Baltimore the lead for good.
"We've had the opportunity to see him a few times over the last couple of years," Davis said. "It's kind of been my approach on him, to look for the ball out over the plate."
It was a different script to the offensive futility from the night before. On Friday, the hits didn't come, but the runs did. Toronto got four across the plate on just four hits.
On Saturday, the Blue Jays racked up nine hits -- although only one for extra bases -- and got multiple runners in scoring position during two innings, but only managed two runs.
"We're swinging it better. We had a lot of opportunities today, we just couldn't cash them in," Gibbons said. "We let Norris off the hook early."
In a clubhouse almost entirely devoid of Toronto's most explosive bats after the game, Dickey reflected on the nature of baseball. He remembered a few weeks back when his offense never could have let him down, and looked at the past few weeks when the bats had cooled down.
"It's just the nature of baseball," he said, so he isn't worrying. For now, though, it's the pitching that will have to carry the team until the offense clicks again.
"I anticipate that the other cycle is going to come back around," Dickey said. "These guys are way too good."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.