Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
With every game critical at this point, the wild-card contending Baltimore Orioles can't afford many self-induced setbacks.
Looking to bounce back from their latest defeat, the Orioles try to avoid losing a fifth straight road series Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Part of the crowded AL wild-card race, Baltimore (78-70) led 3-2 in the seventh inning when Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer off starter Chris Tillman that ultimately helped Toronto (68-80) snap a four-game slide with Saturday's 4-3 victory.
Losers in five of seven, the Orioles have not won a road series since taking two of three at San Francisco from Aug. 9-11. Things don't get any easier after this set for Baltimore, which travels to AL-leading Boston for three games starting Tuesday, then plays four at fellow wild-card contender Tampa Bay to conclude its final road trip.
"It's not easy to make the playoffs, it sure isn't,'' outfielder Nate McLouth said. "Doing it last year was kind of an eye-opener on exactly how it's got to be done. It's a grind, it's a battle to make the playoffs.''
Manny Machado was 3 for 19 in the previous four games before he homered and recorded his 50th double of the season Saturday, but Baltimore stranded eight and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
It was the 11th time in 13 games the Orioles had two or fewer hits in such situations.
"It's hard to do,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "They've done it a lot more times than they haven't. It just gets magnified at this time of year.''
The Orioles might have a good chance to bounce back against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle (11-8, 4.18 ERA), who allowed eight runs on homers to Adam Jones, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy in six innings of an 8-5 loss at Baltimore on July 12.
Davis is 6 for 12 with two homers and Jones 7 for 19 (.368) versus Buehrle, who was 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA during a nine-start stretch before running into the Los Angeles Angels. The left-hander gave up eight runs and a season-high 12 hits - three homers - in four innings of a 12-6 home loss Tuesday.
"The whole game I wasn't making pitches; everything was up, falling behind in the count," he told the Blue Jays' official website. "I feel like I have been pitching so well for so long that you kind of have a bump in the road once in a while, and (Tuesday) was that day."
Baltimore counters with Miguel Gonzalez (9-7, 4.00), who is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season but 0-2 with a 7.48 ERA in his last four road starts overall.
After making two relief appearances in late August, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts. He allowed three runs and two homers while striking out six in six innings, not getting a decision in a 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
Rasmus is 1 for 12 with a double and six strikeouts versus Gonzalez, but is batting .458 (11 for 24) with two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs in his last six games against the Orioles.