TORONTO -- Kevin Gausman knew it was a good time to try to step on the Toronto Blue Jays and take advantage of them while they are down.
He did just that Thursday night, holding the struggling Blue Jays to five hits and one run in six innings as the Baltimore Orioles won the opener of a four-game series 2-1.
"It's kind of that mentality of put your foot on the throat while they're down," Gausman said. "Obviously, they're scuffling a little bit, but they put together some really good at-bats. The biggest thing is my defense played great."
The Blue Jays (1-8) took their sixth loss in a row, extending the worst start in franchise history. The Orioles (6-2) are the early leaders in the American League East.
Toronto also lost Josh Donaldson in the sixth inning after his RBI double when he aggravated a calf strain that has hampered him since Sunday. The injury will be evaluated Friday.
Gausman (1-0) allowed two walks and struck out three in his third start of the season.
"Obviously, my first two starts were a little shaky," he said. "I was kind of all over the place."
He said he worked on regaining his rhythm in his bullpen session.
"I felt more like myself this start than in the first two starts," Gausman said. "Just having that rhythm. ... I'm able to throw the fastball down and away pretty consistently."
Toronto left-hander Francisco Liriano (0-1), who did not survive the first inning in his first start of the season, was much better Thursday in his second appearance. He gave up five hits, two walks and two runs and struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings.
"Obviously, my first outing didn't go the way I wanted it to," Liriano said. "I tried to give my team a chance to win. Today I went pretty far in the game and things went pretty well, but too bad we didn't win the game.
"I used my changeup a little bit more, but all of my pitches were working well. I spotted my fastball and was throwing strikes with it. I was getting ahead, and then Russ (Martin, the catcher,) did a great job."
The Blue Jays have lost five games by one run already this season and another two by three or fewer runs.
The Orioles won for the first time this season while scoring fewer than three runs.
"(Gausman) had his pitch count under control (97 for the game) until they made him work the last couple of innings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "There was a seven-inning outing there, but we wanted to cut him off at six because it's the first time he's been there. You can talk about a lot of different things in the game, but Kevin was the difference. Their guy was pitching well; Kevin pitched a little bit better."
The Orioles took the lead with four consecutive hits in the fifth inning.
Welington Castillo and Trey Mancini singled. Jonathan Schoop doubled to center to score one run, but Mancini was thrown out at home on the relay throw by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after Kevin Pillar retrieved the ball. J.J. Hardy followed with an RBI single, and Baltimore was on top 2-0.
Jose Bautista and Donaldson hit one-out doubles in the sixth inning to trim the Orioles' lead to 2-1.
That was when Donaldson aggravated the calf injury. He was replaced by pinch runner Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh before Brad Brach set the side down in order in the eighth for the Orioles.
Zach Britton pitched the bottom of the ninth to earn his fourth save. He allowed a one-out single by Tulowitzki and walked Russell Martin. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third. Pillar grounded out to shortstop as the runners held. Pinch hitter Steve Pearce, a former Oriole, lined out to center to end the game.
Liriano was replaced by Joe Biagini with two outs and a runner at first base in the seventh inning. After Biagini pitched 1 1/3 flawless innings, Joe Smith struck out the side in the top of the ninth for Toronto.
"It was night and day, (Liriano) did a great job," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "There was that one stretch where they stung some on him, then he settled down back in. Towards the end there, he lost the zone a little bit.
"I thought he did a tremendous job. That's what he can do. He can shut down a good hitting team."
NOTES: Toronto LF Ezequiel Carrera was inserted into the leadoff spot and went 0-for-4, while 2B Devon Travis was dropped to the No. 9 spot and was 0-for-3. Jays 3B Josh Donaldson was used as the designated hitter for the second game in a row before exiting. ... The Orioles selected the contract of RHP Stefan Crichton from Triple-A Norfolk and designated RHP Oliver Drake for assignment. ... Orioles RHP Alec Asher will be promoted from Triple-A Norfolk to make the start Saturday. ... The teams will play the second of the four-game series Friday at the Rogers Centre. Orioles LHP Wade Miley (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will oppose Blue Jays RHP Aaron Sanchez (0-0, 1.29 ERA)