NEW YORK — Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Sunday he believed his team's toughest game of their six-game road trip would be Monday's series opener in Toronto.
Monday's 1 p.m. game will be the team's third straight afternoon game – a rarity. And it's also unheard of that you come into a new city and play the first game of the series during the day. Sometime uncommon can lead to uncomfortable.
But truly the test is replacing the atmosphere and excitement of this weekend's three games at Yankee Stadium with the antisceptic north-of-the-border feel of the Rogers Center.
And now that the Orioles took two of three from the Yankees, cutting their AL East lead to a mere two games, playing the last-place Blue Jays doesn't offer the same buzz.
But the Orioles simply need to look back on their last trip here, when they were swept by the Blue Jays in late-May, which was also a part of their season-high six-game losing streak.
Something tells me, the way this team is playing now, nothing is sneaking up on them. They have the division in their sight in September, a feeling that has eluded this franchise since its last winning season in 1997.
"That's the plan," Orioles right-fielder Nick Markakis said. "We want to win the division. That's the ultimate goal. We still got a lot of baseball left. We still got all of September. We're going to do our best to try and do that. We're just going to take it game-by-game, and I think everybody in the clubhouse is on the same page, same mentality. We're in the zone right now. That's where we want to stay, and we're going to take it day-by-day."
The most important think might be getting a better start from recently-acquired left-hander Joe Saunders than the one he gave five days ago, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings against the White Sox at Camden Yards.
Saunders has pitched OK against the Jays, going 2-4 with a 3.83 ERA in seven career starts and 1-2 with a 3.98 ERA and two quality starts in three starts at the Rogers Center. But he hasn't pitched in Toronto since April 17, 2010.