The Orioles will open their three-game series in Toronto tonight coming off a much-needed 11-inning win Wednesday at Camden Yards, ending a six-game losing streak and avoiding being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays at home.
They simply couldn't have gone into the Rogers Centre reeling from seven straight losses against a Blue Jays team that appears poised to win the American League East. Yes, it's just one win, but it's much better than the alternative.
The Orioles know the odds are against them this weekend in Toronto. A struggling Orioles starting rotation will face a Blue Jays lineup that has established itself as the best in baseball.
Manager Buck Showalter bumped left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to Monday, partially to avoid a matchup with the Blue Jays, who mash left-handed pitching.
Toronto is hitting a major league-best .284 against lefties this season. And Chen, who has pitched just four games against Toronto in his career, is just 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA. The Blue Jays have hit .326 against Chen.
It appears that right-hander Mike Wright will fill Miguel Gonzalez's spot Saturday with Chris Tillman pitching Sunday. Wright, who threw six scoreless innings and threw 65 pitches in his second minor league rehabilitation start with Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, would be pitching on three days rest, so it's uncertain how deep he would be able to go. Wright left Norfolk on Thursday to join the team in Toronto.
The Orioles will also likely add right-handed reliever Jorge Rondon as an extra bullpen arm. Rondon was placed on the Orioles' taxi squad Thursday, meaning he must be recalled Friday. Rondon hasn't been in the minors for 10 days since being last optioned, so the Orioles must place Gonzalez on the disabled list in order to bring Rondon back early.
Wright made one previous career start at the Rogers Centre and didn't get out of the second inning. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and eight base runners (three hits, four walks and a hit batter) in a 5-4 loss on June 19.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez -- who will start Friday's series opener -- has struggled in the second half of the season, going 2-5 with a 7.50 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break. But has actually pitched well this season against Toronto.
Jimenez is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season. In two of those starts -- both at home -- Jimenez has gone seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. In his only start at the Rogers Centre, he allowed four runs on six hits over five innings in a 4-2 loss on April 22.
Tillman, who starts Sunday's series finale in Toronto, is 0-3 with a 15.00 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays this season. In 21 starts against the rest of baseball, Tillman is 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA.
Following Wednesday's game, Showalter indicated the club would also likely bring up a position player for the Toronto series, especially since the Orioles will be without outfielder Dariel Alvarez, who will not make the trip to Canada because of visa problems.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk outfielder Junior Lake will meet the Orioles in Toronto on Friday to replace Alvarez's right-handed bat.
One last note about Wednesday's win. A lot of readers have questioned the approximate distance on Chris Davis' game-winning homer in the 11th inning. The Orioles don't announce home-run distances anymore, but StatCast, Major League Baseball's new-wave statistic analysis system, measured Davis' blast at 458.4 feet.
The ball landed beyond one of the tunnels in the back of the center-field bleachers, essentially just below the bottom of the scoreboard. It was a blast, but I took a look at some of the diagrams they used to use to measure home run distance and StatCast's number is accurate. The diagram estimated Davis' blast between 450 and 460 feet.