TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays feel that parity in the American League East could work to their advantage as they struggle to reach the .500 mark.
One way to begin climbing back into the race would be to create some parity with the Baltimore Orioles, one of their division rivals, starting with the second game of a three-game series at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night.
The Orioles (38-38) are 8-2 in their meetings with the Blue Jays following their 3-1 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night.
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Toronto (36-40) posted an 18-10 record in May after an 8-17 April, but the Blue Jays have sagged to 10-13 in June, dropped them four games below .500.
However, they are still within reach in the division and in the race for the second AL wild card.
“Overall, I still think it’s up for grabs,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate. The teams up top have taken their lumps lately. New York’s been in that tough stretch. They’ve done us a favor. But we’ve got to get going. We’ve got to get rolling.
“This stretch — and you look at the whole month of July, even coming out of the All-Star break, facing some of the top teams — we’ll have a better idea of who we are. I think it’s up for grabs.”
Before the All-Star break, the Blue Jays play the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees and the Houston Astros after they complete the current series against Baltimore.
They must start by figuring out how to beat the Orioles, who will send out left-hander Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48 ERA) on Wednesday against Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69 ERA).
The Orioles have won three games in a row for the first time since May 31-June 2. They also improved their road record to 14-24, and they will try to use the Tuesday win to gain momentum on the road.
“I really believe it can,” said Orioles DH/outfielder Mark Trumbo, who had a two-run double in the first inning Tuesday. “In previous years, we’ve played really well on the road, and this year is this year. We ran into a bit of a blip on the road, but things like that happen.
“It’s a long season, so because we started one way doesn’t mean we’re going to finish one way. The guys in here, they understand that you grind it out, and it’s a super cliche but that’s what you have to do in this business. The guys in here are on board, so just going to have to continue to grind it out.”
The Orioles refuse take the Blue Jays lightly despite their success against them.
“I don’t care whatever (people say), that they’re not swinging the bats like they used to,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who had an RBI single Tuesday. “That lineup scares me. They’re professional, and there are a lot of veteran hitters up there.”
Stroman will be facing the Orioles for the first time this season and will try to cut his losses at two in a row.
He allowed seven hits — three of them home runs — and seven runs in four innings at Texas on Thursday, when he said he did not have a feel for any of his pitches. He also allowed three home runs June 17 in a loss to the Chicago White Sox.
He is 2-3 with a 5.27 ERA and one save in seven career games (six starts) against Baltimore.
Miley has done well this season against the Blue Jays, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts. He is 2-5 with a 4.57 ERA in eight career starts against Toronto.
He is coming off a loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, when he allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings.