The Toronto Blue Jays will have another chance to improve their record within the American League East when they open a three-game series against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Friday night
Their first set with the Orioles this season will conclude a 10-game homestand
After sweeping the Atlanta Braves in three games, the Blue Jays dropped three of four to the New York Yankees
Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Yankees in the finale dropped the Blue Jays to 5-9 against the AL East this season
"You've got to have consistent at-bats one through nine," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. "I think that over the course of the first part of the year here, it's been a little bit inconsistent with everybody.
As an example, Toronto trailed 3-2 and loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh inning on Thursday but scored only one run.
"We didn't really get the big hit this whole series with guys on base," Schneider said. "Bases loaded there with nobody out, you probably want to get a little bit more than one. It ebbs and flows."
The Orioles, who are 6-6 against AL East teams, lost 6-5 Thursday to the visiting Los Angeles Angels to split a four-game series. Baltimore completed a 10-game homestand at 6-4
Toronto is scheduled to start left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (5-0, 3.89 ERA) in the series opener. He faced the Orioles six times last season (three starts), going 2-3 with an 8.10 ERA. In 8 career games (five starts), he is 3-4 with a 6.37 ERA
Right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-3, 4.67) is slated to start for Baltimore on Friday. He is 5-2 with a 4.81 ERA in 11 career starts against Toronto.
The Blue Jays played the final two games against the Yankees with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (sore right knee) and Kevin Kiermaier (illness) out of the starting lineup
Guerrero hit a sacrifice fly as a pinch hitter on Thursday.
The Blue Jays could welcome back reliever Adam Cimber (rhomboid strain in the upper back) against the Orioles
The Blue Jays must contend with Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, who hit an impressive two-run home run against the Angels on Thursday. It was his seventh homer of the season
The 25-year-old is batting .285/.407/.462 with 14 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and a team-best 34 walks. He has been impressive since making his major league debut last May 21.
"It's a team game, and you've got to find a way to compete and win every single day," Rutschman said. "The guys in the locker room, the coaches, everyone that we've got here makes up for the experience you have, and I'm very fortunate to be in the presence of some great guys, some great character people."
The Orioles are 12 games over .500 and second in the East to the Tampa Bay Rays, who are winning at a .711 clip. Baltimore is 3 1/2 games back, and the Jays are 6 1/2 behind in third place
"As long as we continue to go out there each and every day and give our best effort, I think that we're going to continue to put together some close ballgames," said Orioles right-hander Tyler Wells, who started Thursday and took a no-decision. "If they go our way, great. But we're going to keep battling regardless.
Orioles reliever Mychal Givens, who has been out all season with left knee inflammation, threw a bullpen session before the game on Thursday and might make the trip to Toronto. He reportedly could be activated from the injured list any day now
--Field Level Media