Streaking Blue Jays prepare for critical stretch
Play next 10 games vs. O's, Rays, Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays pitchers R.A. Dickey and Chien-Ming Wang would probably tell you they can’t get caught up in the team’s eight-game win streak or 3-4 record against Baltimore this season.
But they certainly need to be mindful of the number 19, worn by Orioles first baseman/designated hitter Chris Davis, and 26, the number of times he has homered in just 72 games this season.
Jays eye perfect 10
The Toronto Blue Jays, fresh off a three-game sweep of visiting Colorado, have won eight games in a row and welcome the Baltimore Orioles for a three-game weekend series, starting Friday at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Toronto has climbed to within one win of the .500 mark at 35-36 and next week hits the road for three games at Tampa Bay and four in Boston.
Here's how the Blue Jays have fared against each American League East opponent since the start of the 2011 season.
- Vs. Orioles: 22-20 (13-9 at home and 3-4 this season)
- Vs. Rays: 13-29 (5-16 at Tampa Bay and 4-3 this season)
- Vs. Red Sox: 22-20 (12-9 at Boston and 4-5 this season)
Davis and company open a three-game weekend series at Toronto on Friday, the beginning of a 10-game stretch for the Blue Jays against divisional opponents that could determine whether or not they bear watching after the all-star break for a potential playoff run.
Toronto entered Thursday’s off-day last in the American League East with a 35-36 record, 7½ games behind first-place Boston and six back of Baltimore for one of the league’s two wild-card spots. Texas is four games up on the Jays for the other wild-card position.
Many eyes in the Baltimore series will be on Toronto’s starting pitchers — Dickey, Wang and Josh Johnson. It’s probably a good thing that the softer-tossing Dickey and Wang start the first two games, given Davis’s ability to turn on a fastball for a homer.
He did it twice Wednesday against Detroit’s Rick Porcello and Jose Valverde in a 13-3 Orioles rout.
But the six-foot-three, 230-pounder has had success versus Dickey, going 4-for-15 with two doubles in his career against the knuckleballer. Davis has touched Wang for a pair of doubles and two RBIs in three at-bats.
Triple Crown pace
He arrives in Toronto scorching hot, with 13 hits, six homers and 14 RBIs in his past nine starts. On the season, Davis boasts a .337 batting average and 66 RBIs, and is on pace for 58 home runs and 146 RBIs, numbers that are better than Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera posted in 2012 when he won the Triple Crown as the American League leader in average, homers and RBIs (.330, 44, 139).
But Dickey, Wang, Johnson and the Jays’ stellar relief corps can’t ignore the other Orioles hitters when you consider Baltimore is first in the AL in home runs (98), second in average (.274) and runs scored (360) and fourth in stolen bases (53).
The top five hitters in the Orioles’ batting order – Nate McLouth, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Davis – have an average of .288 or higher. Machado also has a major league-leading 31 multi-hit games this season and tops the AL with 103 hits and 33 doubles.
Toronto is 2-2 at home against Baltimore this season but the pitching staff as a whole is performing significantly better than when it allowed 27 runs in a four-game series in late May.
"When you get on winning streaks, good things come from up and down the lineup," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters after Wednesday's 5-2 victory over Colorado. "They're all pitching in. Everything is clicking right now."
The Orioles will start right-handers Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez for the first two games in Toronto. Hammel is winless in his last three starts with a 6.32 ERA and has allowed 91 hits in 80 2/3 innings this season.
Gonzalez is scheduled to meet the team in Toronto Thursday night after being put on the paternity leave list for the birth of his first child.
Current Blue Jays batters have hit .298 against Hammel, led by left-fielder Melky Cabrera (.385, two homers in 13 at-bats) and infielder/DH Edwin Encarnacion (.364, home runs in 11 at-bats).
Lind stays hot
Toronto hitters are a combined 19-for-81 (.235) against Gonzalez, with first baseman/DH Adam Lind recording five of those hits in 11 at-bats. He socked his ninth home run of the season on Wednesday and is hitting .340 on the season.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told reporters he would start either left-hander Zach Britton or veteran righty Freddy Garcia in Sunday’s series finale.
Toronto is 22-20 against the Orioles since the start of the 2011 season, including a 13-9 record at the Rogers Centre. Next week the Jays are in Tampa Bay and Boston.
They have won only five of their last 21 games at Tropicana Field but the good news is they don’t have a long losing streak versus the Rays hanging over their heads.
On May 22, Jose Bautista hit two home runs and the all-important walk-off single in the 10th inning for a 4-3 Toronto victory that snapped a 15-series unbeaten streak for Tampa Bay against the Jays.
Toronto is 13-29 versus the Rays since the start of 2011, but 22-20 against Boston including a solid 12-9 at Fenway Park, where the Blue Jays won two of three games in May by a combined score of 15-6.