While the Baltimore Orioles concluded an overall successful road trip in disappointing fashion over the weekend, they return home with what appears to be a good opportunity to get back on track.
The Orioles continue their quest for the American League East title Monday in a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, who try to avoid a season high-tying seventh consecutive defeat and sixth straight at Camden Yards.
Baltimore's season-best six-game winning streak came to end with a 2-1 loss to Boston on Sunday, completing its trek with a 6-3 record. The Orioles (87-65) wasted a chance to draw even with division-leading New York and saw their wild-card lead over Oakland cut to one after the Athletics beat the Yankees 5-4.
"We needed this one," Orioles centre-fielder Adam Jones said. "Obviously, going down to this last stretch every game is looked at as a must win.
"We had a good road trip. We really, really, wanted this one to finish off the road trip, but it happens."
The Orioles have to like their chances of bouncing back with the last-place Blue Jays (66-85) coming to town. Toronto has hit .182 and been outscored 24-9 in dropping all five games in Baltimore this season.
Losers of 10 of 12 overall, the Blue Jays are coming off an 0-6 trip. Toronto dropped three in a row to the Yankees before totalling six runs in three games against Tampa Bay over the weekend, falling 3-0 on Sunday.
"We had opportunities in the fifth, sixth and seventh," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "A two-out hit was elusive and, in the end, we're sitting there with a goose egg on the board."
Scoring runs might not be any easier for Toronto in the series opener against Steve Johnson (3-0, 1.91 ERA). The rookie has made two starts among his 10 appearances this year — the last one coming Aug. 25 versus the Blue Jays, when he gave up two runs, four hits and struck out seven over six innings to win 8-2.
Johnson has posted a 3.00 earned-run average in his two starts while striking out 16 in 12 innings. The right-hander has thrown 11 1/3 scoreless innings of relief since the Aug. 25 outing.
Opposing Johnson will be Henderson Alvarez (9-13, 4.87), who yielded three runs over seven innings of a 4-2 road loss to New York on Wednesday.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles, pitching at least seven innings and allowing three or fewer runs in each appearance.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-9, 3.98) and fellow hard-luck left-hander Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.72) will square off in Game 2.
Chen has gone 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his last five outings — a stretch in which the Orioles have provided him with an average of 2.1 runs of support.
In his last start, Chen allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 4-2, 18-inning win at Seattle on Tuesday. This will be his first appearance against Toronto.
'It's a good sign'
Romero, 0-13 with a 7.42 ERA in his last 15 starts, finally showed signs of coming around in the nightcap of a doubleheader against New York on Wednesday. He allowed one run in six innings despite walking five and giving up seven hits in a 2-1 loss. He didn't get a decision.
"Obviously, you want to go deeper into the game and you aren't happy with the five walks, but there were some good walks, meaning you didn't give in to some hitters in some situations," Romero told the Blue Jays' official website.
"It was finally giving that late bite and fooling some hitters. It's a good sign."
Romero's losing streak is tied for the longest in team history, a mark set by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979.
Romero, though, has gone 7-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last nine matchups with Baltimore. He gave up four runs in six innings in his only game against them this season, an 8-6 victory May 29.