Slumping Blue Jays visit streaking Orioles (Aug 31, 2017)

BY AP • August 31, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Playing as well as they have all season, the Baltimore Orioles will open a four-game weekend series against the slumping Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (68-65) stretched their winning streak to a season-high seven games Wednesday with an 8-7, come-from-behind win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Baltimore trails the New York Yankees by 2 1/2 games for the top American League wild card, and the Orioles are 1 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the chase for the second wild card.

"It's that time of year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You could see the finish line now."

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays (61-72) have dropped four in a row, including a 7-1 loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night.

Toronto just closed a six-game homestand with a 1-5 record and has lost 10 of 12 overall. The Blue Jays sit in last place in the American League East.

"Obviously, it's been real tough," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, "but we haven't played good enough baseball, really, so deal with it."

The Orioles will send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound Thursday. He is 2-2 in five starts for Baltimore since being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in late July.

In his most recent start, Friday at Boston, Hellickson allowed just three runs (two earned) on four hits over seven innings. He received plenty of run support in a 16-3 victory over the Red Sox.

The Blue Jays will counter with Marco Estrada, who is looking to win his second consecutive start after beating the Twins on Saturday. He gave up three runs on six hits in five innings during Toronto's 10-9 victory.

Estrada (6-8, 5.04 ERA) is 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season. He has walked six and struck out 24 over 20 2/3 innings in those outings.

The Orioles have been an offensive juggernaut during their winning streak, scoring four or more runs in six of the seven games.

On Wednesday, they clubbed four home runs and rallied from a 6-2 deficit to complete their first home sweep of Seattle since August 2012.

"That's the (Orioles) team that I saw before when I wasn't here," said catcher Welington Castillo, who signed a one-year deal with Baltimore in December after spending time with the Chicago Cubs, Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

On Wednesday, Castillo was 4-for-4, matching his career best for hits, with three RBIs. He had a run-scoring double, his 16th home run of the season and a pair of singles.

"Everything is working out now," he said. "We are pitching better. We are hitting better. We are playing defense better. Everything is starting to go better for us. That's the kind of team that I see playing right now."

The Orioles and Blue Jays are set to meet for the first time since Baltimore took two of three in Toronto at the end of June.

Baltimore is 7-3 against the Blue Jays this season.

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