Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
Another solid outing from Zach Britton, and the Baltimore Orioles could possibly find themselves tied for first place in the AL East.
Looking to win a fourth straight start, Britton tries to lead the surging Orioles to a ninth win in 11 games Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
After taking two of three in Yankee Stadium over the weekend, Baltimore (75-59) continued to roll by snapping a four-game skid at Toronto with a 4-0 win Monday.
"I'm as proud of them (Monday) as I have been all year,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "That's a challenge.''
Winners in 20 of 28 overall, the Orioles are one game behind first-place New York, which continues its series at Tampa this week. Looking for their first postseason berth since 1997, the Orioles also hold a 1 1/2-game lead on the Rays for the AL's second wild-card spot.
Pitching set the tempo Monday with Joe Saunders allowing Toronto's only three hits over 6 1-3 innings. Baltimore starters have posted a 1.89 ERA during a three-game winning streak against the Blue Jays (60-74).
"In the first game of series, you want to set the tone and really give your team a chance to win," Saunders told the Orioles' official website.
Britton (4-1, 4.80 ERA) has allowed three runs and struck out 21 over 21 2-3 innings while winning his last three starts. He gave up a run and set a career high with 10 strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-3 win over Chicago on Thursday.
After that contest, the Orioles optioned Britton to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for veteran Randy Wolf. However, Britton was recalled over the weekend when rosters expanded.
The left-hander improved to 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA against the Blue Jays after he gave up two runs and fanned six in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-4 win Aug. 24.
Villanueva, 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts versus Baltimore, yielded five hits and struck out seven in six innings of a 2-0 home win over Tampa Bay on Thursday despite pitching with a low-grade fever.
"His changeup is really good and the slider I saw from him came out of his hand like a fastball,'' Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld said. "That's the definition of good off-speed stuff, the stuff that looks like a fastball out of the hand.''
Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs on Monday, is 7 for 12 with three doubles and a home run versus Villanueva. He's hit .391 (9 for 23) with a home run and four RBIs in his last five games against the Blue Jays.
Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion went 0 for 3 in the opener but is 2 for 4 with a double against Britton.