Orioles remain in hot pursuit of Blue Jays

TORONTO — The job just got a little bit tougher for the Baltimore Orioles as they try to overtake the Toronto Blue Jays in the race for the first wild-card position in the American League.

The Orioles need to win the final two contests of the three-game series at Rogers Centre to draw even with the Blue Jays.

By winning the series opener 5-1 on Tuesday, Toronto opened a two-game lead over Baltimore. Each team has five games remaining.

The Orioles also must cast a look over their shoulders because the Detroit Tigers are one game behind them for the second wild-card spot.

The team that finishes in the first wild-card spot is the home team in Tuesday's one-game playoff.

The Blue Jays start left-hander Francisco Liriano (8-13, 4.88 ERA) on Wednesday while Baltimore goes with right-hander Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.84).

“We're playing with house money,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said before Tuesday's game. “A win for the Orioles opens the door for the Orioles. We win and we control our own destiny. You worry about others and you will not be that destiny. We just need to handle what we can handle, control what we can control. I know it's a cliche and I'm not a real cliche kind of guy, but that's just the truth with six games to go.

“We're playing with house money. We weren't supposed to be here. … We're playing with house money, I think that's how we all look it. Now let's go do something with it.”

The Orioles have a chance to take advantage of some misfortune that hit the Blue Jays in the form of two injuries that resulted from a second-inning bench-clearing incident with the New York Yankees in a wild 7-5 loss Monday.

Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis has a sore left shoulder as a result of the skirmish and is day to day. It is the same shoulder that required offseason surgery.

Travis, who left the game Monday in the sixth inning after the shoulder hampered him at the plate, said he was feeling better Tuesday and hopes to play Wednesday. Meanwhile, Darwin Barney has been taking his place.

Not so optimistic is the situation with reliever Joaquin Benoit, who suffered a torn left calf muscle while running from the bullpen to take part in the Monday melee. He said Tuesday that he will be out for 2-to-3 weeks.

Manager John Gibbons will have to find other ways to get through the seventh inning without the right-hander, who was virtually unhittable since arriving in a trade with the Seattle Mariners on July 26. He is 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 25 games with Toronto.

“It's a big loss, no doubt about it,” Gibbons said.

To make up for Benoit's absence, the starters might be asked to go a little longer. The solution Tuesday was to have Joe Biagini pitch the seventh and eighth innings and he was strong, allowing only an infield hit.

It helped preserve an important win. “Really a good bounceback game after a tough one (Monday),” Gibbons said.

Liriano has not faced the Orioles this season and in eight career starts against them is 2-4 with a 5.01 ERA in eight career starts against them,

Tillman is 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season. He is 5-10 with a 5.61 ERA in 23 career starts against Toronto and 2-6, 7.51 in 12 career starts at Rogers Centre.