By KEVIN CHROUST
(AP) — The only thing that could hold Bud Norris back in his last start was a blister.
The Toronto Blue Jays will try to wake up their bats and get under the Baltimore Orioles right-hander’s skin Saturday at Camden Yards, where Norris has done his best work this season.
Norris (5-5, 3.94 ERA) turned in his strongest and most efficient outing of the season in Monday’s 4-0 win over Boston, coming up an inning shy of his first career shutout or complete game because of a blister. He allowed three hits while walking three and striking out six in eight innings.
“Bud was really good,” said manager Buck Showalter, whose starter threw 98 pitches. “I’d have probably given him a chance to finish that game.”
The rest of the rotation might have found a little inspiration in the outing as the next four games from Orioles starters followed suit. Including Norris’ gem, Baltimore starters have posted a 1.09 ERA in five games.
Norris is now after victories in three straight starts for the first time since stringing four together May 5-21, 2012. He’s 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA in five home starts, as well as 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three career starts against the Blue Jays, all of which have come since Sept. 25.
R.A. Dickey has required a little more help lately.
Dickey (6-4, 4.20) has gotten himself in trouble in consecutive starts, only to be bailed out by the bullpen. He’s left in the sixth with the bases loaded and less than two outs in both and his relievers have escaped. As a result, he’s gone four starts without a loss and is 5-1 with a 3.41 ERA over his last 10.
In Monday’s 5-4 win over Minnesota, Dickey surrendered two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings and didn’t earn the decision.
The knuckleballer hasn’t been quite as fortunate against Baltimore since joining Toronto prior to last season, compiling an 0-2 record and 6.93 ERA in four starts.
The dangerous Toronto lineup, which leads baseball with 92 home runs, has shown few recent signs of covering for any pitching deficiencies. Over the last seven games, the Blue Jays have managed 13 runs while batting .199.
“I think we’re all still there. It’s just a rough patch,” Jose Bautista told the team’s official website. “I don’t think anyone’s making a big deal out of it.”
The hitting struggles didn’t stop the Blue Jays (40-29) from evening the four-game series at 1-all with Friday’s 4-0 win in a four-hit effort.
“I felt like it was the toughest game to win all year, if you want to know the truth,” manager John Gibbons said.
Juan Francisco homered but is 2 for 19 over his last eight games. Edwin Encarnacion went 0 for 4 to fall into a 2-for-26 hole while Jose Reyes saw his season-best 12-game hitting streak come to an end.
The Orioles (34-32) were shut out for the second time in four games and had their three-game winning streak in the series derailed.
Manny Machado, who is available as his appeal of a five-game suspension remains unresolved, went 3 for 4 to end a 1-for-20 skid. Chris Davis, however, went 0 for 4 and is 3 for 26 over seven games.
Adam Jones is 3 for 19 against Dickey.
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