TONIGHT: Orioles to try to throw roadblock into path of stampeding Blue Jays


Besides continuing their quest for respectability, the Orioles have another task on their hands this weekend -- helping to maintain order in the AL East race.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who will be at Memorial Stadium for four games, are in a stretch that affords them a chance to build a comfortable lead. Currently leading the division by 1 1/2 games, the Blue Jays are in the midst of 10 straight games against the bottom three teams in the division while the second-place Boston Red Sox are on a difficult West Coast trip.

The Blue Jays, who had lost six of eight previously, moved into first place by winning two of three games in New York. After playing four games against the Orioles they move to Cleveland for three -- and then return home to play 17 of 23 at the SkyDome leading up to the All-Star break.

A successful road trip would put the Blue Jays in position to open a significant gap when they return home, where they have a 16-10 record.

While Toronto is trying to take command of the AL East, the Orioles will be trying to claw their way out of last place while playing 10 of their next 13 games at home. The difference is that the Orioles have been even more ineffective at home (7-15) than they have been on the road (11-17).

Bob Milacki (1-2, 3.62), who is coming off a strong performance last weekend against the Red Sox, will pitch the opening game of the series against the Blue Jays tonight (7:35, HTS). He will be opposed by another righthander, Jim Acker (1-3, 4.61).

Approximately 116,000 tickets have been sold for the four-game series.

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